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Part of the Acorn Archive

Penzance, Cornwall

Architecture and Heritage

The Market Cross

The Market Cross stood, in the present Greenmarket; then next to the original town shoots.

The Market Cross was at the centre of the old boundary circle.

It was moved to Market House, then to Morrab Gardens and now stands proudly in Penlee Park.


The Face

The reverse

The inscription at the base of the reverse


From the drawing by RAS Macalister (1929)

The inscriptions are the only true clue to any form of dating;

it certainly appears that the whole of the carving was done at the same time.

It is a curiosity that there are two figures, one on the rear and one on the edge.

It is also curious that there are just two knotwork panels and three field patterns on the face.

The knotwork is quite different in each design.

The field patters are of differing numbers and arrangements; the significance, if any, is a conundrum;

However, this appears to be a Cornish feature.

The closest that I have seen is the Lanivet Cross, with a simple grid, inscribed with field patterns and knotwork.

Then there are the holes on either side of the neck, and face of the cross head,

the purpose left unanswered.

Interpretation of the inscriptions has presented scholars with somewhat of a puzzle.

In 1906 the inscriptions had not been deciphered.

According to RAS Macalister in 1929, the main inscription reads


(though it does appear that the first letters of each line have been lost)

and the other


This last is clearly “King Ricatus’ Cross”.

There is just one other reference to Ricatus, in Cuby,

though, of course, not necessarily the same person.

Why a Christian Cross should be recording the name of an Iron Age Baron

begs more questions.

The lower panel being simply inscribed F O P C.

The lower panel of the edge appears to include “debased roman capitals”;

certainly the third character is “FI”.

King Athelstan conquered Cornwall around 930 AD. He found a land of Cornish Saints.

Cornwall had a long tradition of Celtic Saints. Penzance was not an exception.

The lettering of the inscriptions has Anglo-Saxon elements.

It can be supposed that it dates somewhere around 1050 AD.

It gives me the impression of there being space left for further

inscription and “decoration”.

Perhaps the inscriptions were added to the older cross?

Looking at the figures one appears to be feminine. Who is she?

Was the area of the cross above the inscription removed deliberately?

Or was it merely the result of the many abuses and moves it has undertaken?

To me, the cross has more questions than it offers answers.

There is also the removed inscription

- noted by Rev C V LeGrice as Hic procumbant corpora piorum -

when the cross was fitted to the front of the New Market House.



Raymond Forward