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Medieval wayside cross in St Mabyn churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in St. Mabyn, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.5257 / 50°31'32"N

Longitude: -4.7638 / 4°45'49"W

OS Eastings: 204198.219943

OS Northings: 73194.643165

OS Grid: SX041731

Mapcode National: GBR N1.J64M

Mapcode Global: FRA 07XN.V78

Entry Name: Medieval wayside cross in St Mabyn churchyard

Scheduled Date: 16 February 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014019

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26254

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Mabyn

Built-Up Area: St Mabyn

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Mabyn

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross situated to the east of the
church in St Mabyn churchyard in north Cornwall.

The wayside cross survives as a round, `wheel' head set on a modern shaft and
base. The overall height of the monument is 1.93m. The granite head measures
0.49m high by 0.56m wide and is 0.13m thick. Both principal faces bear a
relief equal limbed cross, the cross on the west face having splayed ends to
the limbs. The cross on the east face has slightly splayed ends to the limbs
and a marked inclination to the left. There are eroded remains of a narrow
bead around the edge of both principal faces. The head is attached to the
shaft by cement. The modern granite shaft measures 1.09m high, and is
chamfered on all four corners with a 0.11m wide chamfer. The shaft is 0.32m
wide and 0.22m thick. The top of the shaft on the west face is also
chamfered. The chamfer on the left side of the east face has been fractured
at the top, and is narrower. There is a 0.04m diameter hole in the east face,
0.31m above the base. The base of the shaft is square, and the chamfers extend
out to form rounded mouldings at each of its corners. There is an extensive
cement repair to the lower 0.2m of the shaft and the top of the cross-base on
the east face. The shaft is cemented into the base. The almost square granite
base measures 0.78m north-south by 0.76m east-west and is 0.35m high. The top
edges are chamfered and slope down to meet the outer edges of the base.
The cross is located in the churchyard at St Mabyn, 5.4m east of the church.
The historian Maclean illustrated this cross head and half a cross base stone
built into a wall in 1876. This wall was along the road from St Mabyn to
Longstone, and is known as Lane End. It links St Mabyn with the main road
between Bodmin and Camelford, an important early route across Cornwall. Around
1885 the cross-head was removed from the wall and re-erected on the modern
shaft and base in St Mabyn churchyard.

The gravestone to the south of the cross falls within the area of its
protective margin and is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath
is included. The cross is Listed Grade II.

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

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
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 wayside cross has survived reasonably well, and is a good example of a
wheel-headed cross despite being mounted on a modern shaft and base. Although
there is no record of its original location, it functioned as a waymarker on
an important route linking St Mabyn to a major early route across Cornwall,
and at a more local level marking a route within the parish to the church. Its
removal to the churchyard and re-erection there in the 19th century
illustrates the changing attitudes to religion which have prevailed since the

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A G, Stone Crosses of North Cornwall, (1992)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 26002,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 07/17; Pathfinder Series 1338
Source Date: 1988

Source: Historic England

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