Polrode Cross in St Kew churchyard, 3m east of the church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Polrode Cross in St Kew churchyard, 3m east of the church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Kew
National Grid Reference:

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 Polrode Cross has survived substantially intact despite the fracture across the shaft and the reshaping of the head. It is a good example of a wheel-headed cross with carefully executed decoration. It may have acted as a waymarker on the important route through the River Allen valley, or possibly marked a crossing point over the river at Polrode Mill. Its reuse as part of a bridge, and the reuse of the lower shaft as part of a fireplace, its removal to the churchyard and re-erection there in the early 20th century, illustrate the changing attitudes to religion and their impact on the local landscape which have prevailed since the Reformation.


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross, known as the Polrode Cross, situated to the east of the church in St Kew churchyard in north Cornwall. The Polrode Cross survives as a round, `wheel' head set on a rectangular section shaft and modern base. The granite head measures 0.56m wide, and the principal faces are orientated east-west. Both faces bear a relief equal limbed cross with splayed ends to the limbs, and a small, shallow, indentation in the centre of the cross motif. There is a narrow bead around the edge of each face. The head has been fractured across the top, and the north side of the head has been fractured to straighten it in line with the shaft. The north edge of the head on the west face has been chamfered. The granite shaft measures 2.68m high, and is 0.43m wide and 0.33m thick. All four corners of the shaft have a narrow bead which begins at the base of the bead around the head and terminates 0.17m above the cross-base, suggesting that the lower 0.17m of the shaft was originally buried. There is a fracture across the shaft 1.72m above the base, joined by a cement repair. The bead on the north side of the upper section of the shaft on the west face has been replaced by a chamfer, as has the bead on the north edge of the lower section of the shaft on the east face. The rectangular granite base measures 0.82m north-south by 0.61m east-west and is 0.08m high. The shaft is cemented into the base. The upper section of the Polrode Cross was recorded by the historian Langdon in 1896 in use as part of a footbridge across a stream at Polrode Mill. The head had been reshaped so that it would lie flat against another stone. Polrode Mill was approximately 3.75km to the north east of St Kew, in the valley of the River Allen, close to the route of the modern A39T. The course of the A39T follows the major medieval route into Cornwall beside the north coast, through the River Allen valley and on to the important medieval crossing point of the River Camel at Wadebridge. Around 1908 this section of the cross was removed to the churchyard at St Kew. Some years later the lower section of the shaft was found at Higher Polrode Farmhouse in use as a jamb of the kitchen fireplace. Around 1926 the two sections were reunited and re-erected on a modern base in their present location in St Kew churchyard.

The grave with its headstone and kerb surround to the west of the cross, and the concrete surface of the footpath to the north, south and east, where they fall within the protective margin of the cross are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included.

The cross is 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
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses of North Cornwall, (1992)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17927,
Title: 1": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; sheet 30; Camelford Source Date: 1865 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 07/17; Pathfinder Series 1338 Source Date: 1988 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

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