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This beautiful old cross stands inside St Dennis churchyard in Cornwall.

St Dennis Cross as photographed on 24th July, 2021

The cross is found beside the main path, approached from the southern entrance through large double wrought iron gates, to the south porch of the church. The cross has a decorated wheel-head and shaft set into a circular base.

The base measures three feet in diameter and a foot high, and the cross stands to six feet six inches high overall. All four sides of the shaft are highly ornamented, and the head is a more unusual horseshoe shape.

It was recorded by Langdon in 1896 as an ornamented Celtic cross:

St Dennis church stands within an ancient dynas (dinas)  fort on a prominent hilltop south of the A30 and Goss Moor. The village of St Dennis, home to many workers in the local industry – china clay – covers the hillside below it to the south and east. Due north is Castle-an-Dinas, well-marked from the A30, and sited about the same distance north from that trunk road as St Dennis dinas is south of it.

According to the late Craig Weatherhill, a recognised expert in Cornish toponymy:

“St Dennis church named not after the saint, but the ‘dynas’, the Cornish word for fort, stands in the centre of this site, the name of which might have been ‘Din Milioc’ meaning ‘Milioc’s Fort’ and recorded in 1284. This strikingly conical hill was formerly surmounted by two Iron Age ramparts defending an area 113m in diameter. The line of the inner bank, which may have been stone-built, is followed by the churchyard wall. Only faint traces of the outer rampart can be seen, on the north and east sides, about 18m beyond the churchyard wall.”

“The nearby place name Domellick suggests that the St Dennis hill fort was the Castle Dameliock defended by Duke Gorlois of Cornwall against Uther Pendragon’s force the night Arthur was conceived at Tintagel, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth 12th century account.”

The Genuki.org.uk website states:

“It is named after St Denys the Martyr, although as the church is on a hill top, the name may be a corruption of the Cornish word Dinas, meaning ‘Hill Fort’. Dimilioc represents a smaller hillfort inland 20 miles south of Tintagel now occupied by the parish church of St Dennis – it is within an estate listed as Dimelihoc in the Domesday Book of 1086. In the reign of Henry VIII, St Denys was the only parish in Cornwall with the prefix ‘Saint’.”

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren for the above account.

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