Anglian high cross in St Laurence's churchyard


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Anglian high cross in St Laurence's churchyard
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Derbyshire Dales (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SK 21782 76400

Reasons for Designation

High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross. High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services, some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church, but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the art styles and mythology of Viking settlers. Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally important.

The cross in St Laurence's churchyard, although not complete, is a very fine example of an early high cross with an intact cross head and extremely well-preserved plant, figural and interlace decoration.


The monument is located in the south east area of St Laurence's churchyard and is a Grade I Listed Anglian high cross dating probably to the eighth century AD. It includes a tapering rectangular shaft surmounted by a free-armed cross head and is mortared into a pillow-shaped gritstone base or socle which is of a much later date. The angles of both the shaft and cross head are edged with flat-band mouldings which create panels for the raised decoration covering all the faces of both cross head and shaft. Both typical and rarer forms of adornment are represented and, on the shaft, include plant scrolls and leaves on its east face, interlace patterns on its south and north faces and more interlace on the lower half of its west face. On the upper half of the west face are figural carvings enclosed in two panels by roll moulding. The uppermost contains a depiction of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus on her lap with one hand raised in blessing. The lower contains a second figure holding what appears to be a swaddled baby in its arms. This may also be a representation of the Virgin and Child though the adult figure appears to be male. The cross head, which is intact, has rounded spandrels and squared terminals. Both faces have a decorated circular panel at the centre defined by roll moulding. Every flat surface of the cross head is decorated with figural carvings except for the side panels of the upper arm which contain interlace. All the figures are angels carrying objects which appear to be trumpets though this is not entirely clear. No accurate measurements are available but the cross head is approximately 75cm high and broad while the shaft is currently c.1.75m tall. However, the abrupt truncation of the decoration at the base of the shaft indicates that part of the original visible height is hidden inside the later socle while the loss of the Virgin's head from the carving on the west side indicates that part of the upper portion of the shaft is missing. This is supported by the fact that the cross head is out of proportion with the shaft and it is likely that the shaft was originally at least 2m tall. The cross's iconographic adornment and its location in a churchyard suggests that it played a role in the church liturgy during the Anglo-Saxon period. Excluded from the scheduling are the graves contained in the area of the scheduling and the chain fence round the cross, although the ground underneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Derby: Volume I, (1905), 287
Cox, Reverend J C, The Churches of Derbyshire, (1877), 195-6
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, (1953), 136
Rhodes, E, Peak Scenery (part 1)57
Tudor, T L, The High Peak to Sherwood71-2
Routh, T E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in A Corpus Of Pre-Conquest Carved Stones In Derbyshire, , Vol. 58, (1937), 29-31


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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