Churchyard cross in St Petroc's churchyard, 3m south of the church
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014215
Date first listed: 26-Jun-1952
Date of most recent amendment: 11-Jan-1996
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SW 91587 75403
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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.
This churchyard cross in St Petroc's churchyard has survived reasonably well. It forms a good example of a four-holed, wheel-headed cross. The unusual trefoil shape of the four-holes is a rare feature and is a form of decoration unique to Cornwall. This cross is the smallest four holed cross head in Cornwall. The reuse of the cross head as building material in a wall, and its re-erection in the churchyard at the end of the 19th century illustrate the changing attitudes to religion that have prevailed since the medieval period and the impact of these changes on the local landscape.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross situated 3m south of the
church in St Petroc's churchyard on the River Camel estuary on the north coast
The churchyard cross survives as a round or `wheel' head set on a modern shaft
and base. The overall height of the monument is 1.87m. The head is carved from
a grey elvan stone. Elvan is a local name for an intrusive igneous rock: it is
a fine grained stone better suited than granite to fine sculpture. The head
measures 0.5m high by 0.53m wide and is 0.13m thick. The principal faces are
orientated north east-south west. The head is fully pierced by four holes
creating an equal limbed cross with widely splayed arms linked by an outer
ring. Each of these holes have three rounded ribs running through them, one on
the side of each limb and one on the ring forming the holes into a trefoil
shape. Both principal faces are decorated. Each limb has a narrow bead around
its outer edges, and at the intersection of the limbs is a central, round boss
with a bead around its base. The lower limb has been fractured at some time in
the past and has been repaired with cement. The outer ring is decorated with a
double bead which continues across the outer edges of the four limbs. The
limbs extend slightly beyond the outer ring. A short length of shaft 0.09m
long survives below the head and is joined to the modern shaft by cement. This
granite shaft measures 1.28m high by 0.38m wide at the base, tapering to 0.25m
at the top and is 0.19m thick at the base tapering to 0.12m at the top. There
is a bead, 0.06m wide, on all four corners of the shaft and this bead
continues around the base of the shaft. The modern granite base measures 0.78m
north west-south east by 0.66m north east-south west and is set flush with the
ground. Incised on to the south west side of the base is `Restored August
This cross head is believed to have been in the churchyard prior to the early
19th century when it was removed to the wall of a garden on the site of the
old vicarage to the east of the churchyard. The historian Langdon in 1896
illustrated the cross head in the wall. In 1897 the cross head was removed
from the wall and re-erected on a modern shaft and base in its present
position in St Petroc's churchyard.
The graves with their headstones to the west and north west of the cross, the
grave with its chest tomb to the south east and the metalled surface of the
footpath to the south west and north west, where these lie within the
protective margin of the cross are excluded from the scheduling, although 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: 28454
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994)
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses of North Cornwall, (1992)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 87/97; Pathfinder Series 1337 Source Date: 1981 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