Churchyard cross in Phillack churchyard, south of the church
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1016162
Date first listed: 21-Jun-1976
Date of most recent amendment: 24-Sep-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SW 56537 38413
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 has survived well and remains in its position in the original churchyard, thus maintaining its original function as a churchyard cross. It is a good example of an elaborately decorated four-hole cross, and is rare in that only the two upper holes are fully pierced. The shaft is unusually of square shape in section rather than rectangular, and the projections at the base of the head are rare. Its deliberate burial and incorporation into a wall, probably at the time of the Reformation, and its re-erection in the 19th century show well the changing attitudes to religion since the Reformation and their impact on the local landscape.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross situated to the south of
the church at Phillack on the north coast of west Cornwall.
The churchyard cross, which is listed Grade II is visible as an upright
granite shaft with a round or `wheel' head, measuring 1.83m in overall height.
The principal faces are orientated east-west. The head measures 0.42m in
diameter, is 0.26m thick, and is pierced by four holes creating an equal
limbed cross with widely splayed arms linked by an outer ring. The upper two
holes fully pierce the head, the lower two do not go right through. The limbs
of the cross are outlined with a double bead on both principal faces. The west
principal face bears a relief figure of Christ, with arms outstretched and
wearing a tunic, his legs and out-turned feet extending down onto the top of
the shaft. The east principal face is decorated with five round raised bosses,
one on each limb and one at the intersection of the limbs. Just above the neck
of the cross, on the lower edge of the head, are two small rounded
projections, one on either side. The shaft measures 0.31m wide at the base
tapering slightly to 0.25m at the top, and is 0.33m thick at the base,
tapering to 0.28m at the top, giving the shaft an unusual square shaped
section. The shaft has a narrow bead on all four corners, and all four faces
are decorated with interlace designs. The shaft is mounted on a modern,
rectangular granite base. This base measures 0.9m north-south by 1.16m east-
west and is 0.09m high. This churchyard cross was buried up to its neck and
built into a wall, approximately 3.3m to the north of its present location,
with only its head showing, the antiquarian Blight illustrated it in this
position in the 1850s. The cross was removed from the wall in 1856-7 when the
church was rebuilt, and mounted on a modern base. It was recorded that the
cross had a tenon at the base of the shaft, though no base was found when it
was removed from the wall, which suggests that its previous position was not
its original one. In 1973 the cross was re-sited in its present location
within the churchyard, when the road immediately south of the churchyard was
The metalled surface of the footpath with its quartz cobbled drainage channel,
and the concrete kerb to the west of the cross, where they fall within its
protective margin, are excluded from the scheduling, althought the ground
beneath these features 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: 30416
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Thomas, C, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parish Churchyard, Phillack, in Cornish Archaeology Volume 12, , Vol. 12, (1973)
Consulted July 1996, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 31814,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 33/43/part 53; Pathfinder 1364 Source Date: 1989 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