Register of ancient monuments
Reference number 1011755
Cross At Slate Pit Hill
DESCRIPTION OF THE MONUMENT
The monument is the remains of the medieval wayside cross located on Slate Pit Hill on Blackstone Edge. It includes the socket stone or socle of the cross which comprises a roughly dressed gritstone block, measuring approximately 90cm maximum by 60cm minimum by 50cm high, with a rectangular socket hole measuring 30cm by 15cm by 15cm deep. Originally there would also have been a shaft and cross head but these components are now missing, possibly due to 16th or 17th century iconoclasm. The cross is located on a ridge of high ground overlooking Dhoul's Pavement which is an ancient packhorse route utilising the former Roman road over Blackstone Edge. Surrounding the wayside cross, but lying outside the protected area, are a number of disused extraction pits relating to post-medieval quarrying.
ASSESSMENT OF IMPORTANCE
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 pilgrimages.
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 earthfast monuments, except those which are extremely damaged and removed from their original locations, are considered worthy of protection.
Although missing its shaft and head, the cross on Slate Pit Hill is a good example of an in situ wayside cross associated with an ancient right of way across Blackstone Edge.