Sandbach Anglo-Saxon crosses


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


Ordnance survey map of Sandbach Anglo-Saxon crosses
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1011144 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 15-Oct-2019 at 04:09:39.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 75878 60826

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. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross-heads. They may be set within a carved sockle or stone base. The cross heads were frequently small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross. They were erected in a variety of locations and appear to have served a number 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 gathering points for local communities. All examples tend to be heavily decorated, the patterns and ornament drawing on the wider artistic traditions of the time. Patterns, especially those including interlaced strands, 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 inhabitants; later examples are 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. There are fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England. This is likely to represent only a small proportion 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 of high crosses will be identified as nationally important. Sandbach high crosses are regarded as amongst the finest surviving examples of Saxon crosses in the country.


The monument includes a pair of lavishly decorated Anglo-Saxon crosses situated in Sandbach Market Square which can be dated on the basis of their animal and foliate ornament to the first half of the ninth century AD. The stone shafts of the crosses are each firmly fixed in a stone base and stand together on a later rectangular stone platform which is itself raised on two steps. At each corner of this platform are smaller stone posts which were also once ornamented but are now much eroded. The prodigious amount of figural ornament featured on the two crosses has generated antiquarian and archaeological interest for well over a century. The larger, north cross, has scenes depicting Christ's progress to Calvary, and an Annunciation to the Virgin, as well as depictions of the Crucifixion, the Adoration of the Magi and the Nativity, and the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. It is 5m high and the 4.8m carved shaft is topped by part of what was originally a circular cross-head. The figural decoration of the smaller, south cross-shaft is also extensive but, in contrast to the north cross, there is little in the way of narrative figural ornament. Programmes of small framed figures fill the north and south sides of the shaft and an arrangement of figures, animals and foliate ornament fills the east face. Only the carving on the west face has been thought to depict a narrative event. This was originally thought to be a representation of the Final Resurrection; more recently this has been re-interpreted to include a variety of scenes including another Transfiguration, an Adoration of the Virgin and Child, and possibly an Adoration of Christ. This cross is 3.6m high overall; the 3.2m shaft is also topped by part of a circular cross-head. This cross head appears too slight to have been part of the original structure; it may, therefore, be the only recognised fragment of a third cross. It has been suggested that the two crosses were erected to commemorate the introduction of Christianity to Mercia by Peada, son of King Penda of Mercia, in AD 643. They were carved at an important workshop at or near Sandbach. Craftsmen from this workshop may also have produced the other fragments of Anglo-Saxon sculpture found in the present churchyard. This workshop may have been attached to a monastic establishment and supports the suggestion that the town was the site of a Saxon minster. The original setting for the crosses is unknown. They were standing in the reign of Elizabeth I but in the 17th century the central part of the north cross and some fragments of the smaller south cross were taken by Sir James Crewe to Utkinton and erected there. After his death they were moved to Tarporley and then to Oulton Park. In 1816 they were re-erected in Sandbach. The monument is in the care of the Secretary of State and is Listed Grade I. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern stone bollards and chains surrounding the monument, the information plaques and all electric lighting situated at the foot of the modern bollards but the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Earwaker, J P, A History of the Ancient Crosses of Sandbach, Cheshire, (1890), 1-12
Earwaker, J P, A History of the Ancient Crosses of Sandbach, Cheshire, (1890), 1-12
Bailey, R, 'The 113th Annual Meeting of the Cambrian Archaeological Assocn' in The Sandbach Crosses, (1966), 14-16
Hawkes, J, 'Isles of the North: Early Medival Art in Ireland and Britain' in A Question of Judgement: The Iconic Programme at Sandbach, (1995), 213-219
Ormerod, G, 'History of Cheshire' in History of Cheshire, (1882), 98-99
Ormerod, G, 'History of Cheshire' in History of Cheshire, (1882), 98-9
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Sandbach Parish File,
SMR No. 1109/0/1, Cheshire SMR, Sandbach Crosses, (1987)
SMR No. 1109/0/1, Cheshire SMR, Sandbach Crosses, (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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].