High cross in St Wilfrid's churchyard, Halton


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


Ordnance survey map of High cross in St Wilfrid's churchyard, Halton
© 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.

Lancaster (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SD 49915 64699

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.

Although partly restored in relatively modern times, the high cross in St Wilfrid's churchyard, Halton, survives reasonably well. It displays a good example of 11th century art styles and attests to the significance of both the church and its environs as a centre of ecclesiastical importance during this period.


The monument includes a partly restored decorated pre-Norman high cross constructed of local sandstone and located in the churchyard to the south of St Wilfrid's Church, Halton. It consists of a shaft, a stone base or socle, and a cross head. The stone base is three-stepped and measures 1.5m by 1.4m at the base. The height of the cross from the bottom of the shaft to the top of the cross head is 3.6m, making an overall height of 4.5m. The shaft is of rectangular cross section and comprises four pieces, three of which are original and one of which is a relatively modern addition inserted between the original fragments during reconstruction of the cross after damage in order to give an impression of the original height. The decoration on the shaft is of 11th century date; at the base are scenes from the Sigurd legend, an Anglicized and Christianized version of the story of St George slaying the dragon. At the top of the shaft there are emblems of the four Evangelists, St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke and St John, and below this are parts of four arched panels containing figures, but this part of the cross has been broken and lost. The cross head has four arms of which only the carved upper arm is original.

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.

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Books and journals
Calverley, R S Rev, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Series.' in Early Sculptured Crosses and Shrines in the Diocese of Carlisle, , Vol. XI, (1899), 183-193
Lancs SMR, Halton Parish Church, (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

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