Churchyard cross, St Helen's churchyard
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Oct-2019 at 00:57:56.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- East Lindsey (District Authority)
- Mareham Le Fen
- National Grid Reference:
- TF 27838 61250
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 churchyard cross at St Helen's Church, Mareham le Fen, is a good example of a medieval standing cross with a quadrangular base and octagonal shaft. Situated on the south side of the church, it is believed to stand in or near its original position. Limited activity in the area immediately surrounding the cross indicates that archaeological deposits relating to the monument's construction and use are likely to survive intact. While the socket stone and part of the shaft have survived from medieval times, the subsequent restoration of the shaft and head has resulted in the continued function of the cross as a public monument and amenity.
The monument includes the remains of a standing stone cross located in the
churchyard of St Helen's Church, Mareham le Fen, approximately 5m to the
south east of the south porch. The cross is principally medieval in date with
modern additions. The monument includes the base, comprising a socket stone,
and the lower part of the shaft, which are medieval; it also includes the
upper part of the shaft and an ornamented head, which date from an early
20th century restoration.
The socket stone of the cross is fashioned from a single limestone block of square section with moulded and chamfered corners rising to a top of octagonal section. An inscription on the western face of the socket stone records the restoration of 1904. Set into the socket stone is the stone shaft, approximately square in section at the base with chamfered corners tapering upwards in octagonal section. The lower part of the shaft is 1.18m high and represents the remains of the original medieval shaft. The head of the cross is integral with the upper part of the shaft and takes the form of a gabled lantern containing figural scenes under canopies, surmounted by an equal-armed cross; both the head and the upper part of the shaft date from the early 20th century restoration. The full height of the cross is approximately 3.3m. The cross is Listed Grade II.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 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
Davies, D S, 'Lincolnshire Notes & Queries' in Ancient Stone Crosses in Lindsey and Holland Divisions of Lincs, , Vol. XIII no6, (1915), 167
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