High cross in St Wilfrid's churchyard, Halton
- 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 19-Oct-2019 at 05:35:22.
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
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
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
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