St Buryan Church

St Buryan TR19 6BA 



Condition in January 2016 pre-restoration

The monument is on the Heritage at Risk register. The main area for concern is the stepped pedestal, which is constructed of large blocks of granite trigged with smaller stone.

It is assumed that the stepped pedestal was originally neatly levelled and mortared. The earliest, mid 19th century, illustrations show it as such although these may be unreliable witnesses, improving irregularities to produce a good image. A postcard of c1900 shows it looking very level, but with grass in the joints between the stones. This condition is echoed in a photograph in J. Harris Stone’s England’s Riviera of 1912 (opposite p 118).


Illustrations in Hingston Randolph, 1850 (left) and Blight 1856 (right)[1]


Postcard in St Ives Museum

However, with time, the pedestal has lost all of its mortar and much of the rubble and earth fill has washed out, leaving large gaps between the steps of the pedestal, so that the stones forming the steps are 'loose' and, though large, effectively portable.  Seen in particular over the last 15 years, the deterioration may in part be due to advice from English Heritage to get rid of a large cotoneaster rooted in the steps of the east face. This led to a policy of regular treatment of the whole pedestal with herbicide.  Thus any grasses growing in the joints, which may have helped to protect the pedestal’s core, were eradicated along with the cotoneaster, thus allowing rain to penetrate.

As a result, the steps have slumped away from the base-stone which supports the cross-head and most are slightly displaced and uneven. The slump is greatest on the east side where grave stones appear to have arrested the movement. Many of the stones are potentially loose and unstable. There is now no mortar evident in the joints where recessed small stone and earth is visible. The joints on the lowest step have grass growing in the joints. Although the gaps between the back of the steps has been filled with uneven lumps of granite, large gaps between the stones of the base still remain.

The steps are now considered to be unsafe to stand on and may be at risk of localised collapse. close-up photos below and on the next two page show the outwards movement of the step slabs and the exposed core.

Of the stones forming the steps, one at least has carving on its under surface, and may be part of a re-used medieval grave slab.



[1] F. C. Hingston Randolph, 1850, Specimens of Ancient Cornish Crosses, fonts, etc, 34; J. T. Blight, 1856, Ancient Crosses and Other Antiquities in the West of Cornwall, 28

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