Churchyard cross in Phillack churchyard, south of the church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross in Phillack churchyard, south of the church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SW 56537 38413

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.


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 widened. 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.

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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

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