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

A Scheduled Monument in Truro, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.2641 / 50°15'50"N

Longitude: -5.0522 / 5°3'8"W

OS Eastings: 182564.393

OS Northings: 44920.3735

OS Grid: SW825449

Mapcode National: GBR ZF.XG2N

Mapcode Global: FRA 089B.HJR

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

Scheduled Date: 24 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020557

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32958

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Truro

Built-Up Area: Truro

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Mary Truro

Church of England Diocese: Truro


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.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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 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.

Source: Historic England


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

Source: Historic England

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