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.
The standing cross known as Copplestone Cross, although not in its original
position, survives well and is documented from the 10th century onwards. The
interlaced decoration is unique in Devon and Anglo-Saxon sculpture of this
high quality is very rare in the south west.
This monument includes a standing cross situated at a busy road junction on
the A377 in the village of Copplestone. It is known as Copplestone Cross and
is thought to date to the 10th century.
The cross survives as a tall granite shaft of square section, set onto a
modern plinth of coursed stone. The cross was moved to its present location
in 1969 in advance of road improvements, and was originally situated
approximately 10m to the south. It is believed that the cross was raised in
905 AD as a memorial to Bishop Putta who was murdered travelling between
Crediton and Bishop's Tawton. As a landmark, it was mentioned in a charter of
King Eadger in 924 and also in a charter of 947 which described it as a
boundary of an area known as the Nymed.
The cross is nearly 3.2m tall and measures 0.6m square at the base. It is
set upon a modern plinth which is 0.56m high, 1.29m square at the base and
tapers upwards to 1.29m square at the top. The top of the cross has been
slightly damaged, and on the south east face is the remains of what may have
been a socket. Below this there is a niche which cuts through earlier
decoration and may have sheltered a figure. The shaft is divided into three
panels and each contains interlaced strapwork decoration with the exception of
the north east face which seems to depict a figure on horseback, and two
apparently embracing figures executed in the same semi relief as the strapwork
ornamentation. No two panels are alike.
The cross is Listed Grade I.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.