Medieval wayside cross in St Mabyn churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014019

Date first listed: 16-Feb-1996


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

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Mabyn

National Grid Reference: SX 04198 73195


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.

The wayside cross has survived reasonably well, and is a good example of a wheel-headed cross despite being mounted on a modern shaft and base. Although there is no record of its original location, it functioned as a waymarker on an important route linking St Mabyn to a major early route across Cornwall, and at a more local level marking a route within the parish to the church. Its removal to the churchyard and re-erection there in the 19th century illustrates the changing attitudes to religion which have prevailed since the Reformation.


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


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross situated to the east of the church in St Mabyn churchyard in north Cornwall.

The wayside cross survives as a round, `wheel' head set on a modern shaft and base. The overall height of the monument is 1.93m. The granite head measures 0.49m high by 0.56m wide and is 0.13m thick. Both principal faces bear a relief equal limbed cross, the cross on the west face having splayed ends to the limbs. The cross on the east face has slightly splayed ends to the limbs and a marked inclination to the left. There are eroded remains of a narrow bead around the edge of both principal faces. The head is attached to the shaft by cement. The modern granite shaft measures 1.09m high, and is chamfered on all four corners with a 0.11m wide chamfer. The shaft is 0.32m wide and 0.22m thick. The top of the shaft on the west face is also chamfered. The chamfer on the left side of the east face has been fractured at the top, and is narrower. There is a 0.04m diameter hole in the east face, 0.31m above the base. The base of the shaft is square, and the chamfers extend out to form rounded mouldings at each of its corners. There is an extensive cement repair to the lower 0.2m of the shaft and the top of the cross-base on the east face. The shaft is cemented into the base. The almost square granite base measures 0.78m north-south by 0.76m east-west and is 0.35m high. The top edges are chamfered and slope down to meet the outer edges of the base. The cross is located in the churchyard at St Mabyn, 5.4m east of the church. The historian Maclean illustrated this cross head and half a cross base stone built into a wall in 1876. This wall was along the road from St Mabyn to Longstone, and is known as Lane End. It links St Mabyn with the main road between Bodmin and Camelford, an important early route across Cornwall. Around 1885 the cross-head was removed from the wall and re-erected on the modern shaft and base in St Mabyn churchyard.

The gravestone to the south of the cross falls within the area of its protective margin and is 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: 26254

Legacy System: RSM


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 26002,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 07/17; Pathfinder Series 1338 Source Date: 1988 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing