Butter Cross at Dunster
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Feb-2020 at 19:24:05.
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
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