Wayside cross base 125m west of the Merry Maidens stone circle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Buryan
National Grid Reference:
SW 43145 24497

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.

The medieval wayside cross-base 125m west of Merry Maidens stone circle survives well and is a good example of a natural boulder being utilised as a wayside cross-base. It has been suggested that it originally supported the Nun Careg Cross, 180m to the north east on the southern route around the Penwith peninsula. The cross base forms an integral member of an unusually well preserved network of crosses marking routes that linked the important and broadly contemporary ecclesiastical centre at St Buryan with its parish. The routes marked by this monument are also marked at intervals by other crosses, demonstrating the major role and disposition of wayside crosses and the longevity of many routes still in use.


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross-base situated on the verge at the junction of a path leading to St Buryan with a road along the southern coastal belt of Penwith. The wayside cross-base is visible as a large, rounded, rectangular block of granite. The cross base measures 0.83m north-south by 1.22m east-west and is 0.45m high. The rectangular socket in the top measures 0.36m long by 0.27m wide and is 0.16m deep. The sides of the cross-base are rounded and slope downwards from the socket. This cross-base is formed from a natural granite boulder. The cross-base is located close to another cross-base, the subject of a separate scheduling (SM 24270) on one of several church paths, now a public footpath, radiating out of the parish from the church and village of St Buryan; the cross marks the junction between that path and the route around the southern coastal fringe of the Penwith peninsula. The courses of both the path and the coastal route are also marked by other medieval wayside crosses. St Buryan, the site of a major Celtic monastery traditionally founded in the early tenth century by Althelstan, forms the focus of an unusually large number of wayside crosses within its parish, several of which bear distinctive designs early in the known sequence of wayside crosses.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses of West Penwith, (1997)
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. 49, (1978)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 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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