Butter Cross at Dunster


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


Ordnance survey map of Butter Cross at Dunster
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Somerset (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SS 98819 43873

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 socket stone and broken shaft of the wayside cross at Dunster is of medieval date, and although it is not certain that it survives in its original location, the present position beside the road within view of the church is likely to be close. The shape of the pedestal is likely to reflect the original, does not detract from the monument and continues to symbolise the original imposing stature of the cross.


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross shaft in its square socket stone standing on what appears to be a modern plinth. The whole stands on a raised knoll by the roadside to the north west of the town of Dunster. The knoll, which is included in the scheduling, stands c.1.5m above the surrounding land, and on this is a kerb of stones surrounding the plinth. The distance from the outer edge of the kerb to the base of the mound varies between 0.9m and 0.65m. The distance from the base of the plinth to the outer edge of the kerb is 1m. The plinth, which appears to be of modern construction, is 2.5m wide and 1m high. Above this is the socket stone which is square with chamfered top corners. On the north face it bears the inscription `WC,1871,WS' which probably records a restoration. The socket stone is 0.85m wide and 0.5m high. The shaft of the cross tapers slightly and survives to a height of 1.1m. It is square at its base where it joins the socket stone, becoming octagonal in section c.0.3m above the square socket. The simple socket and shaft is of 15th century type. It stands at a junction of four tracks within view of the church and is indicative of a wayside cross leading people towards the church. The cross is Listed Grade II* and is in the care of the Secretary of State.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 154


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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