Wayside cross and cross slab in St Michael's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019054

Date first listed: 13-Feb-1958

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Apr-2001


Ordnance survey map of Wayside cross and cross slab in St Michael's 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: Helston

National Grid Reference: SW 65771 27726, SW 65823 27715


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.

The medieval wayside cross and cross slab in St Michael's churchyard have survived reasonably well, the wayside cross as a good example of a `wheel' headed cross. Both crosses have been re-erected in the churchyard clearly demonstrating the changing attitudes towards religion and their impact on the local landscape since the medieval period.


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


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross which lies to the west of St Michael's Church, Helston, in west Cornwall and a cross slab at the south east entrance to the churchyard. The wayside cross, which is 0.5m high, survives as a short section of an upright granite shaft with a round `wheel' head which measures 0.42m high, 0.49m wide and 0.2m thick. The principal faces are orientated north west-south east and both bear a relief equal limbed cross with splayed ends to the limbs and a narrow bead around the outer edge of the head. The shaft measures 0.8m high and is cemented onto a large granite block inscribed with the name PENBERTHY in large letters. This block forms part of a substantial raised granite kerb forming the sides of a pair of linked chest tombs. The cross and the chest tombs are Listed Grade II. The original location of this cross is unknown. It is believed to have formed part of Mr Penberthy's collection from his house in Porthleven. The cross slab, which measures 0.84m high by 0.36m wide survives as an upright granite slab with a relief Latin cross with chamfered edges on its visible face. An incised line runs across the slab above the cross motif, and two incised lines run down the sides of the slab forming a frame or panel around the cross. The cross slab forms part of a memorial set into the west wall of the south east entrance to the churchyard. A slate plaque on one side is inscribed as a memorial to a headmaster of St Michael's School; a small slate plaque above the cross slab is inscribed: `This is a medieval cross', and the slate plaque on the other side commemorates the founding and rebuilding of the church. The cross slab and memorial are set in a large rectangular niche with a granite bench below, within the granite wall forming the western side of this entrance to the churchyard. The cross slab and the south eastern entrance to the churchyard is Listed Grade II. The cross slab was first recorded in 1936, and is probably part of a medieval coffin slab or lid.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 31861

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses in West Cornwall, (1999)
Consulted July 1998, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 30125.11,
Consulted July 1998, Cornwall SMR entry for PRn No. 30125.12,
Listing entry for Church St Helston, SE entrance to church,
Listing entry for Penberthy tombs & cross, Church St, Helston,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 52/62; Pathfinder Series 1369 Source Date: 1983 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing