Medieval wayside cross in Blisland churchyard, 30m east of the church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014006

Date first listed: 16-Feb-1996


Ordnance survey map of Medieval wayside cross in Blisland churchyard, 30m east of the church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Blisland

National Grid Reference: SX1008573116


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.

This wayside cross has survived well as a good example of the rather uncommon `Latin' cross type. Its octagonal-section limbs are unusual, as is the square top to the octagonal shaft. The former reuse of the shaft as a base for a sundial and later a gatepost, and the removal of the cross-head, its subsequent burial and rediscovery, and the re-erection of the cross on the shaft in the churchyard demonstrate well the changing attitudes to religion and changes in the local landscape since the medieval period.


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


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross situated within the churchyard at Blisland, in north Cornwall.

The wayside cross survives as an upright granite head and octagonal shaft. The cross-head has unenclosed arms, a form called a `Latin' cross, its principal faces orientated east-west. The overall height of the monument is 2.6m. The head measures 0.71m high, 0.64m wide across the side arms and is 0.25m thick. All four limbs are octagonal in section; each side of the octagonal limbs measures 0.1m wide, and the side limbs are slightly expanded at the ends. This cross is set on an octagonal shaft with a square top. The four corners of the top slope in 0.03m to form four of the eight sides of the shaft. Each of the eight sides measures 0.12m wide. The shaft is 1.89m high, and has a square-section moulded foot sloping out from the north west, north east, south east, and south west sides. The base of the shaft measures 0.3m east-west by 0.3m north-south. On the east face of the shaft there is a 0.04m diameter hole, 0.12m deep, 0.18m below the top of the shaft. Another hole 0.43m above the base of the shaft still retains its iron gate hinge fitting, projecting 0.08m out from the shaft. The hinge is 0.02m thick and has a 0.05m diameter hole.

This cross is believed to be Blisland's village cross and was originally positioned at the centre of the village green on a three step base. At some period in the past, possibly during the 17th century, the cross was knocked down, the head removed to the rectory and a sundial placed on the shaft. The cross head was found in the early 19th century in the grounds of the rectory when excavating foundations for a barn. The head was then set on top of a rubbing post in one of the glebe meadows, and was illustrated in this position by the historian Langdon in 1896. Around 1850 the shaft was removed from the village green to the Tregaddick estate, 1km to the north west of Blisland, to be used as a gatepost. Sometime after 1896 the shaft and head were reunited on a new base in the churchyard at their present location. The base is not visible; it is completely covered by a layer of turf.

The gravestones are excluded from the scheduling where they fall within the protective margin of the cross but the ground 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: 26259

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 3595,
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 07/17; Pathfinder Series 1338 Source Date: 1988 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing