The Bow Stones Anglian cross shafts


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


Ordnance survey map of The Bow Stones Anglian cross shafts
© 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.

Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
Lyme Handley
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SJ 97387 81308

Reasons for Designation

Freestanding crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of locations in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries AD. They are found throughout western and northern England, although they are particularly concentrated in the north. Surviving examples are all of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses were also used for similar purposes. Such crosses comprise shafts supporting carved cross-heads. They might be set within a carved stone base. The cross-heads were frequently small, the broad cross-shafts being the main feature of the cross. They were erected in a variety of locations and appear to have served a variety of functions. Some are associated with established churches and monasteries and may mark burial places, focal points used in religious services, or the boundaries of ecclesiastical land-holdings. Others may have marked route-ways or other gathering points for local communities. All examples tend to be heavily decorated, the patterns and ornament used drawing on wider artistic traditions of the time. Patterns of interlace are common, some depicted as 'vine- scrolls', tendrils of growth of the grape vine, sometimes complete with leaves. On the most developed examples this 'vine-scroll' is shown to be inhabited by a variety of birds and animals. Panels depicting figures and animals are also commonly found; on occasion these depict Biblical scenes or personages. This carved ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours, although traces of these colourings now survive only rarely. The earliest examples were created and erected by native communities; later examples were heavily influenced by Viking art styles and mythology and their creation can be related to the Viking infiltration and settlement of the north of England. Several distinct regional groupings and types have been identified, some being the product of single 'schools' of craftsmen. Around 200 examples of such crosses have been identified. This is likely to represent only a small portion of those originally erected. Some were defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm in the late medieval period. Others fell out of use and were taken down and re-used in new building works. They provide an important insight into art-traditions and changing art-styles. The figured panels provide information on religious beliefs. The Viking period stones contribute to studies of the impact of the Scandinavian newcomers into the north of England. All well preserved examples are identified as nationally important. The Bow Stones crosses survive well, despite the loss of their heads. They are unusual in having round cross-shafts and this may point to a local tradition of carving. The pairing of the crosses is also unusual.


The monument is the Bow Stones, two Anglian cross shafts located on Higher Moor beside the old ridgeway between Disley and Macclesfield. It includes a pair of cylindrical late Anglian cross shafts set in a single base stone. The western cross shaft measures 1.22m high and is 1.25m in circumference at the base, tapering to 0.86m in circumference at the top. The eastern cross shaft measures 0.98m high and is 1.27m in circumference. Both shafts have a cordon, or rounded stone moulding, near the top with interlaced decoration above, indicating a date not later than the 10th century. Both shafts have lost their heads, although it is thought that two stone cross-heads now at nearby Lyme Hall may be these. Both shafts have post-medieval lettering carved into them. They are known as the 'Bow Stones' because of a local folk tradition that Robin Hood and his followers re-strung their bows near here. A wooden fence on three sides of the monument and an information sign on the monument's south-eastern side are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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.

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Books and journals
Thacker, A, The Victoria History of the County of Cheshire, (1987), 290
Pape, T, 'Trans North Staffs Field Club' in Trans North Staffs Field Club, , Vol. 80, (1945), 39
Pape, T, 'Trans North Staffs Field Club' in , , Vol. 80, (1945), 39
Capstick, B., FMR Report, (1987)
Capstick, B., FMW Report, (1987)
SMR No. 1631, Cheshire SMR, Bowstones, (1987)


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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