Medieval churchyard cross in Laneast churchyard


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


Ordnance survey map of Medieval churchyard cross in Laneast churchyard
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 22792 83980

Reasons for Designation

A standing cross is a free standing upright structure, usually of stone, mostly erected during the medieval period (mid 10th to mid 16th centuries AD). Standing crosses served a variety of functions. In churchyards they served as stations for outdoor processions, particularly in the observance of Palm Sunday. Elsewhere, standing crosses were used within settlements as places for preaching, public proclamation and penance, as well as defining rights of sanctuary. Standing crosses were also employed to mark boundaries between parishes, property, or settlements. A few crosses were erected to commemorate battles. Some crosses were linked to particular saints, whose support and protection their presence would have helped to invoke. Crosses in market places may have helped to validate transactions. After the Reformation, some crosses continued in use as foci for municipal or borough ceremonies, for example as places for official proclamations and announcements; some were the scenes of games or recreational activity. Standing crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have numbered in excess of 12,000. However, their survival since the Reformation has been variable, being much affected by local conditions, attitudes and religious sentiment. In particular, many cross-heads were destroyed by iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. Less than 2,000 medieval standing crosses, with or without cross-heads, are now thought to exist. The oldest and most basic form of standing cross is the monolith, a stone shaft often set directly in the ground without a base. The most common form is the stepped cross, in which the shaft is set in a socket stone and raised upon a flight of steps; this type of cross remained current from the 11th to 12th centuries until after the Reformation. Where the cross-head survives it may take a variety of forms, from a lantern-like structure to a crucifix; the more elaborate examples date from the 15th century. Much less common than stepped crosses are spire-shaped crosses, often composed of three or four receding stages with elaborate architectural decoration and/or sculptured figures; the most famous of these include the Eleanor crosses, erected by Edward I at the stopping places of the funeral cortege of his wife, who died in 1290. Also uncommon are the preaching crosses which were built in public places from the 13th century, typically in the cemeteries of religious communities and cathedrals, market places and wide thoroughfares; they include a stepped base, buttresses supporting a vaulted canopy, in turn carrying either a shaft and head or a pinnacled spire. Standing crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval customs, both secular and religious, and to our knowledge of medieval parishes and settlement patterns. All crosses which survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in or near their original location, are considered worthy of protection.

The Laneast churchyard cross has survived well despite the loss of its lower shaft and base. It forms a good example of a four-holed wheel-headed cross and has an abacus with moulded edges at its neck which suggests a late tenth century date. The abacus is a rare form of decoration which is only present on two other crosses in Cornwall. The burial of the cross head and upper shaft amongst building rubble in the churchyard until the 20th century when it was re-erected, illustrates the changing attitudes to religion that have prevailed since the Reformation and the impact of these changes on the local landscape.


The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross located in Laneast churchyard in north Cornwall.

The churchyard cross survives as the upper section of a granite shaft with a round or `wheel' head set on a modern granite shaft and base. The overall height of the monument is 2.54m. The head measures 0.58m wide and the principal faces are orientated east-west. Each face of the head displays a low relief equal limbed cross, its limbs slightly splayed at the ends. The head is pierced by four holes marking the angles where the limbs of the relief cross meet and creating a distinct ring linking the limbs. The side limbs are more widely splayed than the upper and lower limbs and project slightly beyond the enclosing ring. At the base of the head is an abacus or collar-like disc around the neck of the cross, which projects beyond the edge of the shaft. The abacus is 0.42m wide and has a marked inclination towards the north. The upper section of shaft measures 0.4m high by 0.29m wide and 0.21m thick. There is a narrow bead on all four corners of the shaft. On the east face is a lightly incised pattern of crossing lines forming lozenge shapes. The lower section of shaft measures 1.36m high by 0.46m wide at the base tapering to 0.29m at the top and is 0.25m thick. The upper portion of the shaft is joined to the modern section of shaft by cement. The rectangular modern granite base measures 1.23m north-south by 1.05m east-west and is 0.08m high above ground level. The shaft is cemented into the base, and there are drill splits or narrow grooves visible along the top edge of the base, the result of one method of splitting granite.

This churchyard cross was discovered in 1952 when a grave was being dug in the churchyard. It was found amongst building rubble 0.9m below ground level. The historian Ellis suggested that the cross was discarded in 1437 when the church was rebuilt. In 1954 the cross was re-erected in its present location close to where it was found, opposite the south porch.

The gravestone to the south west and the metalled surface of the footpath passing to the north of the cross-base are excluded from the scheduling, where they fall within the protective margin of the cross, 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, Stone Crosses of North Cornwall, (1992)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17641,
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Map; SX 28/38; Pathfinder Series 1326 Source Date: 1989 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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