High cross in St Peter's churchyard, Heysham
- 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 07:16:18.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Lancaster (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SD 41058 61617
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 only a portion of the cross shaft remains, this portion displays a good example of ninth century AD 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 the lower part of the decorated shaft of a ninth century
Anglian high cross located in the churchyard to the south of St Peter's
Church, Heysham. It is constructed of local red sandstone and is set in a
modern sandstone base. The shaft is rectangular in cross section and tapers
towards the top. It measures 0.85m high. The decoration on the south face of
the shaft depicts a human figure, possibly seated, beneath an arch or halo.
Beneath this figure there is a panel with interlaced decoration. On the north
side of the shaft the decoration depicts a gabled building with a doorway and
seven windows or recesses. In the uppermost window there is a human figure and
in the doorway there is a human figure apparently swathed in burial clothing.
This artwork has been interpreted as the Raising of Lazarus. The sides of the
cross shaft are decorated with cabled edging and deeply cut tree scroll.
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:
Lancs SMR, St Peter's, Heysham, (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