Griff Cross, wayside cross 800m NNE of Griff Farm on the road from Helmsley to Rievaulx


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012890

Date first listed: 03-Aug-1995


Ordnance survey map of Griff Cross, wayside cross 800m NNE of Griff Farm on the road from Helmsley to Rievaulx
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Ryedale (District Authority)

Parish: Rievaulx


National Grid Reference: SE 59105 84633


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 pilgrimages. 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.

The wayside cross known as Griff Cross survives well in spite of the loss of the shaft and head. Enough survives to indicate the type of cross and that the date of its construction is the late medieval period. It is in its original position and marks a point on the old road from Helmsley to Rievaulx Bridge known as Sperragate from 12th century Rievaulx charters.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument comprises a cross base known as Griff Cross wayside cross on the junction of the B1257 out of Helmsley and the road down to Rievaulx Bridge. The shaft and head are missing. It stands on a plinth of cobbles about 7m from the edge of the road.

The cross base is a block of fine grained sandstone squared and measuring 0.9m in each dimension at the bottom. The block has been sculpted to form triangular shapes on each face dividing it into an octagonal shape at the top. The block is 0.68m in height. It has been set into a circular plinth of cobbles 2.36m in diameter. The socket for a cross in the top is octagonal and 0.14m deep. The quality of the carving is still remarkable and relatively unworn. This represents the best that a late medieval mason could do.

The cross base is a fine piece of carving and is not, as was commonly thought, a portion of a pillar from Rievaulx Abbey which is only a mile away. It was sculpted for the missing octagonal shaft which was probably headed by a carved lantern. This type of cross is late in date and may have been erected as a prestigious religious introduction to the lands of the abbey. It also marked the way down to the Rievaulx Bridge from the road from Helmsley to Ryedale and Bilsdale. This route to the bridge is known as the Sperragate in a Rievaulx charter of AD 1160.

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: 25639

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hayes, R H, Old Roads and Pannierways in North East Yorkshire, (1988), 54

End of official listing