Copplestone Cross


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mid Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SS 77068 02602

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 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.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Masson Phillips, E M, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon, Part 2, , Vol. 70, (1938), 318-319
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SS70SE-005, (1989)
MPP fieldwork by H. Gerrard, (1994)


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

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