Three high crosses in St Mary's churchyard
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 15-Sep-2019 at 07:17:49.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Ribble Valley (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SD 73241 36154, SD 73250 36161, SD 73268 36169
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
Although partly weathered and in places broken, the three high crosses in St Mary's churchyard, Whalley, survive reasonably well. As a group of richly decorated pre-Norman crosses they are unparalleled in Lancashire. They display good examples of early 11th century art styles and attest to the significance of both the church and its environs as a centre of ecclesiastical importance during this period.
The monument includes three decorated pre-Norman cross shafts, each
constructed of local sandstone, located in the churchyard to the south of St
Mary's Church, Whalley. The westernmost of the three cross shafts measures
approximately 2.9m tall and is of rectangular cross section tapering towards
the top. All four sides of the shaft have been decorated but only the eastern
has survived heavy weathering; this contains six panels, three of which depict
interlaced decoration and three of which depict human, bird and animal
figures. The top of the shaft has been broken and now has the remains of a
small mutilated Anglo-Saxon cross head, originally with expanded arms rounded
at the ends. The central cross shaft measures approximately 2.2m high and is
socketed into a carved square base stone or sockle. It is rectangular in cross
section and tapers towards the top where it has been broken. A piece of the
shaft about 0.75m in length is missing. All four sides of the shaft depict
well preserved early 11th century decoration comprising foliated scrollwork.
The principal ornamentation is on the east and west faces and consists of a
central rounded shaft or pole rising from the apex of a gable. At the top of
the shaft are the mutilated remains of the carved central boss of the cross
head. The easternmost cross shaft is socketed into an oblong stone base with
holes at each end of it suitable for supporting other cross shafts. It
measures approximately 2.1m high and is of rectangular cross section tapering
towards the top where it has been broken. All four sides of the shaft have
been decorated but heavy weathering has virtually obliterated artwork on all
but the western face where carved scroll work remains visible. The original
cross head is missing and has been replaced by a 15th century decorated cross.
All graves and headstones, the surface of a footpath, and a flight of stone
steps adjacent to the eastern cross shaft are excluded from the scheduling,
but the ground beneath the footpath and steps 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Taylor, H, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, (1906), 74-80
SMR No. 185, Lancs SMR, Whalley Churchyard, (1994)
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