St Buryan churchtown cross
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010214
Date first listed: 30-Nov-1926
Date of most recent amendment: 12-Jul-1994
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
Parish: St. Buryan
National Grid Reference: SW 40903 25679
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Wayside crosses are one of several types of Christian cross erected during the
medieval period, mostly from the 9th to 15th centuries AD. In addition to
serving the function of reiterating and reinforcing the Christian faith
amongst those who passed the cross and of reassuring the traveller, wayside
crosses often fulfilled a role as waymarkers, especially in difficult and
otherwise unmarked terrain. The crosses might be on regularly used routes
linking ordinary settlements or on routes having a more specifically religious
function, including those providing access to religious sites for parishioners
and funeral processions, or marking long-distance routes frequented on
Over 350 wayside crosses are known nationally, concentrated in south-west
England throughout Cornwall and on Dartmoor where they form the commonest type
of stone cross. A small group also occurs on the North York Moors. Relatively
few examples have been recorded elsewhere and these are generally confined to
remote moorland locations.
Outside Cornwall almost all wayside crosses take the form of a 'latin' cross,
in which the cross-head itself is shaped with the projecting arms of an
unenclosed cross. In Cornwall wayside crosses vary considerably in form and
decoration. The commonest type includes a round, or 'wheel', head on the faces
of which various forms of cross or related designs were carved in relief or
incised, the spaces between the cross arms possibly pierced. The design was
sometimes supplemented with a relief figure of Christ and the shaft might bear
decorative panels and motifs. Less common forms in Cornwall include the
'Latin' cross and, much rarer, the simple slab with a low relief cross on both
faces. Rare examples of wheel-head and slab-form crosses also occur within the
North York Moors group. Most wayside crosses have either a simple socketed
base or show no evidence for a separate base at all.
Wayside crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval
religious customs and sculptural traditions and to our knowledge of medieval
routeways and settlement patterns. All wayside crosses which survive as earth-
fast monuments, except those which are extremely damaged and removed from
their original locations, are considered worthy of protection.
The St Buryan churchtown cross has survived well, despite being re-set in a later base. Earlier records confirm the cross in its present position where it forms a good example of a wheel head cross. Its unusual and distinctive design makes this one of the earliest known wayside crosses and provides important information on the production and stylistic development of pre-Norman crosses, reflected in its specific mention in a recent study of this subject. The location of this cross at the focus of the various routes and the church paths which radiate out into the parish demonstrates well the major roles of wayside crosses and the longevity of many routes still in use. This is illustrated especially clearly in St Buryan parish as it retains an unusually complete series of medieval wayside crosses, of which this monument forms an integral part. The secondary role of this cross as a market cross is unusual and shows the several functions which wayside crosses may serve for their communities.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, surrounded by a 2m protective
margin, at the junction of five routes in the centre of St Buryan in west
The cross, which is Listed Grade II, survives with its original medieval round
'wheel' head and shaft set in a substantial post-medieval composite stepped
base, measuring 2.23m in overall height. The head measures 0.41m high by 0.42m
wide and is 0.16m thick. The north west principal face bears an equal-limbed
cross whose upper half is defined by two quadrant sinkings while its lower
half is defined by two deeply incised quadrant shapes. The south east
principal face bears a relief figure of Christ measuring 0.57m high and 0.31m
wide. The figure is depicted wearing a tunic, with outstretched arms splayed
at the ends, and legs terminating in large out-turned feet. The figure is set
low down on the head, extending down the upper shaft. The rectangular-section
shaft is 0.33m high, 0.18m thick and tapers slightly in width from 0.29m at
the top to 0.27m as it enters the socket in the base. The shaft has a repaired
transverse fracture 0.22m above the base. The shaft is cemented into an
octagonal base-slab whose socket is wider than the shaft and which forms the
upper part of an unusually large composite base for this cross. The octagonal
slab measures 0.8m across the faces and is 0.2m high, each facet of the
octagon being 0.34m wide. The octagonal base-slab is set on top of a
rectangular plinth of cemented granite slabs, measuring 1.45m east-west by
1.54m north-south and 0.16m high. From the edges of the plinth, an area of
granite cobbles slopes outwards, forming the upper surface of a massive,
nearly square, walled base supporting the cross, base-slab and plinth. The
walled base measures 3.57m north east-south west by 3.47m north west-south
east and is 0.8m high. It is defined by a mortared outer wall of large
uncoursed granite slabs, capped by massive elongated slabs reinforced by iron
cramps in the top corners.
This cross is situated 8m south west of the churchyard wall in St Buryan and
presents the same appearance, with its massive base, as recorded by the
historian Langdon in 1896. Langdon notes a local tradition that the location
of this cross was once part of the churchyard and became isolated from it when
the churchyard area was enclosed. However excavation in 1985 along the south
eastern edge of St Buryan churchyard wall produced evidence that the
churchyard enclosure follows an earlier, pre-Christian, sub-circular
enclosure, with subsequent walls either preserving that line or enlarging the
churchyard, contrary to the tradition.
St Buryan is located at the centre of the southern part of the Penwith
peninsula and the cross lies at the focus of a series of routes that radiate
from the church into the parish and beyond into the peninsula. Most of these
routes are marked by surviving medieval wayside crosses. St Buryan was the
site of a major Celtic monastery, traditionally founded by Athelstan in the
early 10th century AD, and forms the focus of a distinctive series of crosses
bearing the motifs present on this cross's head. A recent study of these
crosses, in which this cross is specifically mentioned, has suggested that
they date to the late 9th or early 10th century and provided a major design
inspiration for the mid 10th century development of a highly elaborate series
of west Cornish crosses.
St Buryan was the major market town for the area as well as a parochial
centre. A charter of AD 1302 granted a market to the Dean and his successors
at St Buryan. As a result, this wayside cross, standing at the focus of the
various cross-marked routes into the village, acquired a secondary function
and title as the Deanery Market Cross.
The surfaces of the modern kerbed and block-paved pedestrian area around the
cross-base and the metalled road beyond to the north west, west and south west
are excluded from the scheduling but the land beneath is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 24294
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Legg, R , St Buryan Church Guide, (1991)
Olson, L, Early Monasteries in Cornwall, (1989)
Preston-Jones, A, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Road Widening at St Buryan and Pelynt Churchyards, , Vol. 26, (1987), 153-160
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. 49, (1978), 75-9
Given by letter, 8/93, Information given to MPPFW by Mr Andrew Langdon, (1993)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing