Medieval wayside cross in Altarnun churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014857

Date first listed: 20-Jun-1955

Date of most recent amendment: 15-Dec-1995


Ordnance survey map of Medieval wayside cross in Altarnun churchyard
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Altarnun

National Grid Reference: SX 22291 81312


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

This wayside cross has survived reasonably well, and is a good example of a wheel-headed cross despite being mounted on a modern shaft and base. Although it appears to be a wayside cross there is no record of its original location, and in its present position it fulfills the role of a churchyard cross. It may originally have been one of the series of wayside crosses which survive around Altarnun parish.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross situated in Altarnun churchyard in north Cornwall. The wayside cross survives as a round, `wheel' head set on a modern granite shaft and base. The overall height of the monument is 2.06m. The granite head measures 0.53m high by 0.56m wide and is 0.22m thick. Both principal faces of the head bear a relief equal limbed cross, the cross on the north west face having a marked inclination to the left. The head is cemented onto the shaft. The rectangular-section shaft measures 1.36m high, 0.41m wide at the base tapering to 0.34m at the top, and is 0.27m thick at the base tapering to 0.2m at the top. The hexagonal base measures 0.85m north east-south west by 0.87m north west-south east and stands 0.17m above ground level. The cross is located in the churchyard at Altarnun close to the south east entrance to the churchyard. The historian Langdon in 1896 illustrated the head resting on a round base, and stated that it was located on the south side of the church. Around 1905 the cross-head was re-erected on a modern shaft and base in its present location. The cross is said to date from the sixth century when St Nonna came across from Wales and set up a religious settlement on a site to the north east of the present church. It has been dated to the 10th - 11th centuries by the historian Nash-Williams. The metalled surface of the footpaths passing to the south west and the north east of the cross and the granite gravestone and surrounding kerb to the north are excluded from the scheduling where they fall within the protective margin of the cross, 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: 26250

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17654,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 28/38; Pathfinder Series 1326 Source Date: 1989 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing