Ancient Monuments

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Pixies' Cross: a wayside cross and associated earthwork enclosure on Whitchurch Down

A Scheduled Monument in Whitchurch, Devon

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Latitude: 50.5434 / 50°32'36"N

Longitude: -4.1164 / 4°6'58"W

OS Eastings: 250140.704574

OS Northings: 73656.8972

OS Grid: SX501736

Mapcode National: GBR NX.H4J0

Mapcode Global: FRA 278M.G56

Entry Name: Pixies' Cross: a wayside cross and associated earthwork enclosure on Whitchurch Down

Scheduled Date: 7 July 1959

Last Amended: 22 September 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008926

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24811

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Whitchurch

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


The monument includes a monolithic cross of coarse-grained granite, in a very
prominent position in the middle of Whitchurch Down, sited in a slight hollow
on the bank of an associated earthwork enclosure. There is no sign of a
socket stone, but the cross seems very firmly set in the turf. The top
two-thirds of the shaft curve slightly to the WNW. The cross has crude stumpy
arms which are aligned NNE-SSW.
The cross shaft is of neat rectangular section, 0.32m by 0.3m. The total
height of the cross is 2.25m. The arms have a total width of 0.75m, and their
maximum extent beyond the shaft is 0.25m. The head of the cross extends a
maximum of 0.46m above the arms. The cross is Listed Grade II.
There are incised carvings on the WNW face of the cross, including a crude
cross measuring 0.4m vertically by 0.3m horizontally. The cut is approximately
0.04m wide by 0.01m deep.
The bank on which the cross stands forms a continuous ring to the east, broken
only by the entrance to the quarry. The bank has an external ditch which has
been partially filled on the east side by relatively recent dumping of soil.
It appears that the bank and ditch are earlier than both the quarry, which is
presently on the site, and the cross. The enclosure formed by the bank and
ditch is c.143m in circumference and c.45m in diameter.

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and,
because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most
complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The
great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provides direct evidence
for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards.
The well preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites,
land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later
industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes in the
pattern of land use through time.
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 settlements, or on routes which might have 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 110 examples of wayside crosses are known on Dartmoor, where they form
the commonest type of stone cross. Almost all of the wayside crosses on the
Moor take the form of a `Latin' cross, in which the cross-head itself is
shaped within the projecting arms of an unenclosed cross.
Wayside crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval
routeways, settlement patterns and the development of sculptural traditions.
All wayside crosses on the Moor which survive as earth-fast monuments, except
those which are extremely damaged and removed from their original locations,
are considered worthy of protection.

Pixies' Cross is one of the best preserved and most visually impressive of all
medieval wayside crosses on Dartmoor. It is one of a line of crosses marking
medieval routes to and from Tavistock where there was a Benedictine abbey.
The location of the cross on top of the bank of an earlier enclosure is a rare
association and suggests that the enclosure must be early medieval or
even prehistoric in origin. A published photographic record of the cross
survives from c.1900.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bray, Mrs A E, The Borders of the Tamar and Tavy, (1879), 403
Crossing, W, The Ancient Crosses of Dartmoor, (1887), 41-43
Crossing, W, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor, (1902), 81-82
Masson Phillips, E, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon : Part 1, (1936-37), 316
Masson Phillips, E, 'Devonshire Association Transactions' in The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon : Part 1, (1936-37)

Source: Historic England

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