Ancient Monuments

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Medieval wayside cross in Altarnun churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Altarnun, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.6044 / 50°36'15"N

Longitude: -4.5127 / 4°30'45"W

OS Eastings: 222291.483595

OS Northings: 81311.934486

OS Grid: SX222813

Mapcode National: GBR NC.CBP8

Mapcode Global: FRA 17FG.PRY

Entry Name: Medieval wayside cross in Altarnun churchyard

Scheduled Date: 20 June 1955

Last Amended: 15 December 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014857

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26250

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Altarnun

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Altarnon with Bolventor

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval wayside cross situated in Altarnun churchyard
in north Cornwall.
The wayside cross survives as a round, `wheel' head set on a modern granite
shaft and base. The overall height of the monument is 2.06m. The granite head
measures 0.53m high by 0.56m wide and is 0.22m thick. Both principal faces of
the head bear a relief equal limbed cross, the cross on the north west face
having a marked inclination to the left. The head is cemented onto the shaft.
The rectangular-section shaft measures 1.36m high, 0.41m wide at the base
tapering to 0.34m at the top, and is 0.27m thick at the base tapering to 0.2m
at the top. The hexagonal base measures 0.85m north east-south west by 0.87m
north west-south east and stands 0.17m above ground level.
The cross is located in the churchyard at Altarnun close to the south east
entrance to the churchyard. The historian Langdon in 1896 illustrated the head
resting on a round base, and stated that it was located on the south side of
the church. Around 1905 the cross-head was re-erected on a modern shaft and
base in its present location. The cross is said to date from the sixth century
when St Nonna came across from Wales and set up a religious settlement on a
site to the north east of the present church. It has been dated to the 10th -
11th centuries by the historian Nash-Williams.
The metalled surface of the footpaths passing to the south west and the
north east of the cross and the granite gravestone and surrounding kerb to the
north are excluded from the scheduling where they fall within the protective
margin of the cross, but the ground beneath is included.

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.

This 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
it appears to be a wayside cross there is no record of its original location,
and in its present position it fulfills the role of a churchyard cross. It may
originally have been one of the series of wayside crosses which survive around
Altarnun parish.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17654,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 28/38; Pathfinder Series 1326
Source Date: 1989

Source: Historic England

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