Churchyard cross shaft and base in St Petroc's churchyard, 30m south east of the church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014216

Date first listed: 03-Jun-1970

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Jan-1996


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross shaft and base in St Petroc's churchyard, 30m south 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: Padstow

National Grid Reference: SW 91601 75380


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 shaft and base in St Petroc's churchyard have survived reasonably well. It forms a good example of an elaborately decorated cross shaft, and is the largest shaft and base in Cornwall. The fleur de lys symbol on the south face of the shaft is an unusual motif. The burial of the cross shaft and base, their discovery and re-erection in their present location in the 19th century, illustrates well the changing attitudes to religion that have prevailed since the Reformation 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 shaft and base situated by the south east entrance to St Petroc's churchyard at Padstow on the River Camel estuary on the north coast of Cornwall. The cross is visible as a large fragment of an upright granite shaft set in a massive rectangular base stone. The cross measures 1.42m in overall height. The shaft measures 0.84m wide at the base, tapering to 0.71m at the top and is 0.32m thick. There is a 0.1m wide bead on all four corners. All four faces of the shaft are decorated, though this decoration is very worn: on the north principal face is a panel of plaitwork; the two sides are decorated with interlace designs, and the south principal face bears a crudely executed fleur de lys design. The fleur de lys was a symbol of the Virgin Mary. The shaft is set in a roughly rectangular granite base which measures 2.39m east-west by up to 1.16m north-south and is 0.36m high. This churchyard cross is located by the south east entrance to St Pedroc's churchyard. It was discovered in 1869 while excavating a grave for William Sowden, to the north west of its present position. The cross shaft and base were found 0.45m below the ground surface, and were probably in their original position, having been buried as the level of the churchyard rose around them. The historian Langdon in 1896 recorded a local tradition that the cross head and upper shaft are buried in the churchyard. It has been suggested that the shaft and base were fractured from the upper shaft and head during the Commonwealth period. Langdon also records that when excavating a grave for a Molly Walters, close to where the shaft and base were found, a cross head was found but not removed. It has been suggested that this cross shaft and base are part of a cross head and shaft in the grounds of Prideaux Place to the north west of the church, but Langdon thought that this was unlikely, as there was not sufficient evidence to link the two cross fragments together. A more recent theory is that this cross shaft and base are part of the massive cross head at St Michael's, Porthilly on the other side of the Camel estuary to Padstow, though again there is no conclusive evidence. The historian Hencken in 1932 dated the cross shaft to the 11th century but the interlace designs on the shaft suggest a tenth century date. The metalled surface of the footpath immediately to the north of the cross but within its protective margin is excluded from the scheduling 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: 28455

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 26353,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 87/97; Pathfinder Series 1337 Source Date: 1981 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing