Beverley sanctuary limit stone, Bishop Burton cross


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


Ordnance survey map of Beverley sanctuary limit stone, Bishop Burton cross
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
Bishop Burton
National Grid Reference:
TA 00547 39682

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.

Despite post Elizabethan damage, including the loss of the cross head, the Bishop Burton cross survives reasonably well and still retains architectural medieval decoration pertaining to its 13th century date. Indications are that the cross stands in its original position and will therefore preserve archaeological information on its original setting, and contribute to an understanding of its original function. The preservation of the limit stones and the Sanctuary Chair still remaining at Beverley is unusual and increases the archaeological and historical value of the monument.


The monument is the Bishop Burton medieval sanctuary limit cross of Beverley. Indications are that the cross stands in its original position. It is one of four original stones marking the limit of the Liberty and Sanctuary of Beverley Minster, of which now only three remain. The cross comprises a 2m high surviving limestone shaft set upon a metre square stone base with bevelled shoulders, and it has engaged shafts and semi-rounded corners which each bear a single vertical grooved line. The monument formerly bore the inscription `rate pro anima magistri villielmi de walthon' (pray for the soul of William of Walthon). It is located about 10m inside a field, beyond a boundary hedge along the south side of the A1035, between the village of Killingwoldgraves and the Beverley race course, and is surrounded by a wooden fence. The surrounding fence is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. The idea that churches could offer sanctuary dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. Criminals, including murderers, could invoke the protection of the church and thereby seek pardon for their misdemeanours. At Beverley, the four original stones marked the outer limit of the sanctuary area. If a pursuer caught his quarry inside this outer ring he had to pay a `hundreth' (eight pounds) to the church authorities for the violation of sanctuary. The fines to be paid rose at the violation of the five inner boundaries (located at the town edge). The fugitive finally had to cross the churchyard boundary to reach the church itself, where only very wealthy pursuers could afford the ninety six pounds fine incurred if they apprehended the felon at the church door. The sum rose to one hundred and forty four pounds if the felon had reached the choir of the church, whilst a pursuer who took a felon at the altar might forfeit his own life. Once criminals had gained such sanctuary, they were allowed to stay for 30 days during which time they sought pardon. If this was not secured, they were escorted out of the sanctuary area at the end of the period. Beverley was one of several great churches in the north known as sanctuary refuges, others being Ripon, Hexham, York and Durham. At the latter two, sanctuary began only at the church door.

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
Kirby, R M, Sanctuary: Beverley - A Town of Refuge, (1982), 7-8


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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