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
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Oct-2018 at 08:29:59.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
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:
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