Standing cross at High Cross, 30m west of Truro Cathedral


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020557

Date first listed: 24-Jul-2002


Ordnance survey map of Standing cross at High Cross, 30m west of Truro Cathedral
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Truro

National Grid Reference: SW 82564 44920


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.

Despite limited damage and evidence of minor modification, the standing cross at High Cross, 30m west of Truro Cathedral survives well. It is considered to be near its original location. The recorded associations of the cross with a medieval borough, and subsequently of its having formerly possessed a base, as well as with public entertainment and markets, illustrate the use of crosses to mark and legitimise commercial and recreational activity.


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


The scheduling includes a medieval standing cross, situated on level ground 30m west of Truro Cathedral. This is considered to be the borough cross of Truro recorded in 1290. Documentary evidence, with the place-name High Cross, indicates that it is near its original position. The cross, which is Listed Grade II, has a wheel type (disc shaped) head and its original shaft with a broken bottom edge, carved from a single piece of granite, and a modern granite shaft beneath this. It is up to 0.48m wide north west-south east, and has a consistent thickness of approximately 0.3m north east-south west. Its overall height is 3.04m. The head, which is 0.48m across, has a fairly regular round outline. Its two faces, south east and north west, are both carved with a similar cross in relief. Each cross is diagonal, and has a central round boss 0.1m across; a slight flattening around the boss and equal limbs around 0.13m wide and 0.15m long, formed by four triangular sinkings or cut-away areas which stop short of the edge of the head, leaving a raised rim round the face between the limbs. The north west side of the head is broken off at an angle, so that the carved rim on the edge of its north east face is missing. This face also has a small drilled hole in the lower triangular sinking. The neck of the cross is marked by two rounded projections, one at the top of each side of the shaft. The projections stand out 0.05m from the shaft and are 0.09m high and 0.2m across, not extending the full thickness of the shaft. The surviving length of the medieval shaft is approximately 0.65m. It is fairly straight sided, and in section is square with rounded corners. A slight, roughly vertical line in its south west face is thought to be a natural flaw. The modern, lower part of the shaft closely resembles the original above in form and finish. It is 1.91m high. The cross was found while digging a utility trench some 80m to the south in 1958. It has since been placed in several locations around this area before being fixed in its present position in 1988. An early 19th century account records that the cross formerly had a visible base, and that this had been used for tethering a bull for baiting. The site was later used for markets and fairs.

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: 32958

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Douch, HL, The Book of Truro, (1977), 20
Henderson, C, Essays in Cornish History, (1935), 10
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994), 59-60

End of official listing