Medieval churchyard cross in Quethiock churchyard
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014549
Date first listed: 09-May-1996
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Jan-2019 at 18:14:57.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SX 31299 64720
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.
The Quethiock churchyard cross has survived well. It forms a good and complete example of an elaborately decorated four-holed, wheel-headed cross. It is the third highest cross in Cornwall and has several rare features, including the trefoil shape of the four holes, a form of decoration unique to Cornwall and the width of the lower limb on the cross head which projects beyond the shaft at the neck. Studies of churchyard crosses, and the interlace decoration on the shaft, have dated this cross to the tenth century. The burial of the cross head and base close to its original location in the churchyard until the 19th century, and the reuse of the shaft, illustrate 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 situated in the south west
corner of the churchyard in Quethiock, in south east Cornwall.
The churchyard cross is visible as an upright granite shaft with a round or
`wheel' head set in a round granite base, measuring 4m in overall height. The
head measures 0.9m high by 0.84m wide and is elliptical in shape. 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 face bears a double bead on the outer ring, the outer bead passes over
the upper limb, and the double bead passes over the lower limb. The upper and
side limbs are decorated with triquetra knots, the lower limb bearing two
interlaced oval rings; the edges of the limbs are outlined with a single bead.
At the intersection of the limbs is a central round boss with a bead around
its base. This decoration is more worn on the south face than on the north
face. The upper limbs extend slightly beyond the ring, and there is a bead
around the outer edges of the side limbs. The lower limb is larger than the
other limbs; its outer edges extend to either side of the shaft, and curve
upwards at an obtuse angle. The head is joined to the shaft by a tenon which
fits into a mortice on the top of the shaft and is reinforced by cement. The
shaft measures 0.75m wide at the base tapering to 0.38m at the neck, and is
0.32m thick at the base tapering to 0.25m at the neck. The shaft has a 0.1m
wide bead on all four corners. Originally all four sides of the shaft were
decorated, but the decoration on the south face is badly eroded and no longer
visible. On the north face the shaft is divided into three panels containing
interlace designs. The west side bears a continuous panel of foliated
scrollwork, the east side is divided into two panels bearing an eroded
interlace design. The shaft has a cement join 1.47m above the base. On the
east side there is a small lead filled hole 0.07m long by 0.06m wide and 2.08m
above the base. The west side has two lead filled holes: the upper one is
0.05m long by 0.04m wide and is 0.31m below the cement join; the lower one is
0.05m long by 0.06m wide and is 0.14m below the upper hole. These small holes
and the fracture of the shaft are the result of the former reuse of the cross
as a pair of gateposts. The shaft is joined to the base by a tenon which fits
a mortice in the base and is reinforced by cement. The round base measures
1.26m in diameter and is 0.3m thick, only 0.14m is visible above ground level.
The cross head and base were found buried in the churchyard in 1881 by workmen
excavating to build a new boundary wall for the south side of the churchyard.
The Reverend William Wilmot found the shaft in use as two gateposts to a
disused entrance to the churchyard. This gateway has since been blocked up.
The four fragments of the cross were cemented together and re-erected on 25th
July 1881 on the spot where it was found, which was considered to be close to
its original site. The historian Hencken in 1932 dated the cross to the 13th
century by the style of the scrollwork decoration on the shaft. More recent
studies of churchyard crosses suggest that this cross is of tenth century
The gravestones to the east and north east of the cross are excluded from the
scheduling where they fall within the protective margin of the cross, but the
ground beneath is included.
The cross is Listed Grade II*.
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: 26248
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Pearce, S M, The Kingdom of Dumnonia, (1978)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 10201.06,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 26/36; Pathfinder Series 1348 Source Date: 1983 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