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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 348
Date assigned Thursday, July 21, 1994
Date last amended


REASONS FOR DESIGNATION 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. Although the head is missing from the standing cross in St Thomas Becket churchyard, the monument is reasonably well-preserved and is a good example of an early post-Conquest cross which is similar in form to the 11th century cross in Taddington, Derbyshire. DETAILS The monument is the remains of a medieval standing cross located in the churchyard west of St Thomas Becket Church. It comprises a medieval red sandstone cross shaft set in a circular red sandstone socle or socket stone. Originally a cross head would have surmounted the cross shaft but this is now missing and has been replaced by an 18th or 19th century sundial. The undecorated shaft is of square section and has a narrow square pedestal. In form it is a fluted column which indicates a probable 11th century date. It is not clear whether the socle is an original feature or a later replacement. It is similar to the modern socle of the nearby high cross but also has the appearance of part of a calvary or stepped cross base. No accurate measurements are available as the cross is enclosed by iron railings but the shaft is c.1.2m high by c.30cm square and the socle is c.1m in diameter. The railings and all graves falling within the area of the scheduling are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included. The cross is also Listed Grade II.

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1994. Scheduling Notification: Standing cross in the churchyard of St Thomas Becket Church. List entry no. 1008827. SM Cat. No. 348.



Grid reference Centred SK 0576 8081 (11m by 12m)
Map sheet SK08SE

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Record last edited

Sep 4 2013 11:38AM

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