Ancient Monuments

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Siward's or Nun's Cross

A Scheduled Monument in Dartmoor Forest, Devon

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Latitude: 50.5126 / 50°30'45"N

Longitude: -3.9692 / 3°58'9"W

OS Eastings: 260472.654587

OS Northings: 69943.244942

OS Grid: SX604699

Mapcode National: GBR Q5.B07B

Mapcode Global: FRA 27KP.ZC9

Entry Name: Siward's or Nun's Cross

Scheduled Date: 10 November 1964

Last Amended: 6 October 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009096

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24133

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Dartmoor Forest

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


This monument includes a large granite wayside cross, known as Siward's or
Nun's Cross, lying immediately next to a long established track leading
between Buckfast and Tavistock Abbeys. The cross lies on level ground between
two hills and also represents a boundary marker between the 13th century
properties of Buckland Abbey and the Forest of Dartmoor which belonged to the
The cross stands 2.2m high and its arms measure 0.8m wide. It has a Latin head
and a tapering shaft inserted into a socket stone. The western face bears the
inscription BOCLOND in two lines below an incised cross at the junction of the
arms. This inscription probably refers to Buckland Abbey, on whose side of the
stone it is inscribed. The word SIWARD is incised into the eastern face of the
cross, and it is considered that this may be recording that this stone once
also formed an 11th century boundary marker for land belonging to Siward, Earl
of Northumberland.
In around 1846 the cross was pushed to the ground and broken in half. Within
two years it was re-erected and strengthened with iron rods which are still

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

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 as a result of 19th century vandalism, Siward's or
Nun's Cross survives very well, is complete and remains in its original socket
stone. This cross served as a boundary marker from at least the 11th century
and as a marker on an important route between two abbeys. Unusually this
cross bears two separate inscriptions of different dates.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Crossing, W, The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor, (1987), 73-78
Hemery, E, Walking Dartmoor's ancient tracks, (1986), 152
Starkey, F H, Dartmoor Crosses And Some Ancient Tracks, (1989), 24-27
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX66NW20, (1986)

Source: Historic England

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