Churchyard cross and wayside cross in St Erth's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019169

Date first listed: 07-Sep-2000


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross and wayside cross in St Erth'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: St. Erth

National Grid Reference: SW 54975 35091, SW 54991 35016


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 cross in St Erth's churchyard survives reasonably well as a good example of a four holed cross with unusual decoration of a type found on a group of crosses around St Buryan, the site of an early medieval monastery. It is believed that these crosses date to the tenth century. The wayside cross survives as a good example of a `wheel' headed cross. The discovery of this cross, its incorporation into a wall and later removal to the churchyard in the 19th century demonstrates well the changing attitudes to 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, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes a medieval churchyard cross and a wayside cross situated in St Erth's churchyard in west Cornwall, to the south east of the church. The churchyard cross is 1.01m high and survives as a round or `wheel' head mounted on a rectangular granite base. The head measures 0.66m in diameter and 0.23m thick, and forms an equal limbed cross with expanded ends to the limbs, the ends of the limbs joined by an outer ring. The spaces between the limbs are fully pierced by four holes. The principal faces are orientated east-west, and are both decorated. The east face displays five round raised bosses, one at the centre, the others marking the four limbs of the cross. The west face bears a figure of Christ in high relief with arms outstretched; the figure terminates at the waist. The cross head is cemented into a rectangular granite cross base which measures 0.66m north-south by 0.7m east-west and is 0.35m high. This cross is Listed Grade II. A cross, probably this one, was first mentioned as being in St Erth's churchyard in 1838. The local antiquarian, Blight, illustrated it in 1856, and the historian, Langdon, illustrated it in 1896. Both these illustrations show the face displaying the bosses facing to the west. By 1953 the head had been turned around so that the bosses now face east. This cross with its figure of Christ on one side and bosses on the other displays similar characteristics to the early tenth century crosses on the Penwith peninsula, centred around St Buryan and the early medieval monastery there. The wayside cross survives as an upright granite shaft with a round, `wheel' head cemented on to a modern three stepped granite base. The west side of the top step has metal letters `GILBART' on it. The cross head measures 0.52m in diameter by 0.24m thick and has principal faces orientated east-west. The west face displays a relief figure of Christ with outstretched arms, His head inclined to the north and feet apart and out-turned. A bead extends from the feet around the outer edge of the head. The east face bears a Latin cross in relief with a narrow bead around the outer edge of the head. This face has been fractured on the top of the head and the north side of the shaft. The shaft measures 0.31 high, 0.29m wide and 0.26m thick. All four corners of the shaft are chamfered. The antiquarian, Blight, noted this cross at Battery Mill, 0.5km south west of St Erth, in 1856. The historian, Langdon, illustrated the cross in a garden wall at the mill in 1896. He also recorded that the cross had been found nearby around 1860 and had been built into the wall for its preservation. When Mr Gilbart, the owner of the mill, died in the 1890s the cross was removed to the churchyard and placed on a modern base over his grave. The surface of the gravel footpath to the south and west, the lamp-post to the south, the vault to the north and the gravestone to the north west of the churchyard cross, and the gravestones to the north, south, east and west of the wayside cross are excluded from the scheduling where they fall within the monument's 2m protective margin, although the ground beneath all 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: 31871

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Blight, J T, Blight's Cornish Crosses, (1856)
Blight, J T, Blight's Cornish Crosses, (1856)
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses in West Cornwall, (1999)
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses in West Cornwall, (1999)
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. BAR 49, (1978)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; Explorer 102; Land's End Source Date: 1996 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing