Medieval wayside cross 150m ESE of Lower Alsia
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
- St. Buryan
- National Grid Reference:
- SW 39658 25153
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 within 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.
This wayside cross has survived well and is an unusual example of a wheel- headed cross with its crudely shaped head. There is no record of it ever having been moved from its original position as a marker on this route to the church within the parish and linking the interdependent medieval religious houses, demonstrating well the major roles of wayside crosses and showing clearly the longevity of many routes still in use. This is illustrated clearly in St Buryan parish as it retains an unusually complete series of surviving medieval wayside crosses, of which this monument forms an integral part.
The monument includes a medieval wayside cross situated on a wide marshy verge
east of Lower Alsia on the road linking Sennen with St Buryan on the Penwith
peninsula in west Cornwall.
The wayside cross survives as an upright granite shaft with a crudely
fashioned round, `wheel' head, rising to an overall height of 0.77m above
ground level. The head has an angular, almost rectangular, shape and measures
0.44m high by 0.6m wide and is 0.16m thick. Each principal face bears a low
relief Latin cross with slightly splayed ends to the upper limbs, the
lowermost limb terminating at a straight transverse edge at the top of the
shaft. A narrow raised bead runs around the perimeter of each face. The
rectangular section shaft measures 0.33m high and is 0.32m wide by 0.16m
The wayside cross is situated to the south of the road on a wide marshy grass
verge at the hamlet of Lower Alsia. This road links St Buryan with Sennen, a
route across the southern part of the Penwith peninsula. During the medieval
period, the parish church of Sennen was a chapelry of the important collegiate
church of St Buryan and the cross marks the direct route linking these
religious establishments, as well as a route to the church at St Buryan from
the west and south west of the parish. This cross is one of an unusually large
number of surviving medieval wayside crosses that mark the several routes
radiating into the parish from the church at St Buryan, the site of a major
Celtic monastery, traditionally founded by Athelstan in the early 10th
The cross is also Listed Grade II.
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Henderson, C, The Cornish Church Guide, (1928)
consulted 1994, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 28534,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 33/43/part 53; Pathfinder 1364 Source Date: 1989 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