Standing cross in the churchyard of St Mary's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008822

Date first listed: 21-Jul-1994


Ordnance survey map of Standing cross in the churchyard of St Mary's Church
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Feb-2019 at 18:09:09.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Derbyshire

District: Derbyshire Dales (District Authority)

Parish: Wirksworth

National Grid Reference: SK 28723 53963

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.

The cross in St Mary's churchyard is a well-preserved example of a simple standing cross which would have played a role in the liturgy of the church.


The monument is a medieval standing cross located in the churchyard west of St Mary's Church. It is a gritstone cross comprising a dressed rectangular socle or socket stone and a rectangular section shaft. Originally the shaft would have been surmounted by a cross head but this is now missing. The shaft is c.3m tall and has chamfered edges. The chamfers terminate c.20cm above the base to create a narrow pedestal. Similar moulding forms a decorative collar at the summit. The shaft measures c.45cm north-south by c.30cm east-west and tapers slightly to the top. It is leaded into the socle which is c.60cm high and measures 80cm by 75cm. Because St Mary's Church is known to have originated in the Anglian period, it has been suggested that the socle was originally that of an Anglian high cross and that the medieval shaft was fitted into it after being moved from the market place. However, from appearances there is no evidence for this. Weathering and toolmarks on the socle match it to the shaft and it is more likely that both date to the 13th century when the church was rebuilt. Anglian and medieval cemeteries are likely to survive in the churchyard but have not been included in the scheduling as their extent and state of preservation are not sufficiently understood. Post medieval graves falling within the area of the scheduling are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them 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: 23351

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing