Churchyard cross, St Mary's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012661

Date first listed: 08-Jan-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Jun-1995


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross, St Mary's churchyard
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Staffordshire

District: Stafford (District Authority)

Parish: Ellenhall

National Grid Reference: SJ 84116 26520


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 Ellenhall is a good example of a medieval standing cross with a stepped base. Limited activity in the area immediately surrounding the cross indicates that archaeological deposits relating to the monument's construction in this location are likely to survive intact. While the base, socket-stone and much of the shaft have survived from medieval times, the subsequent restoration of the upper part of the shaft and head demonstrates the continued function of the cross as a public monument and amenity.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a standing stone cross situated in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, Ellenhall, approximately 2.5m south east of the south porch. The cross, which is Listed Grade II, is of stepped form and is medieval and later in date. The monument includes a base consisting of three steps, a socket-stone and a shaft, all of which are principally medieval in date; it also includes a head which dates from the late 19th century restoration of the cross. The steps are roughly square in plan and are constructed from blocks of faced stone. The edges of the three steps are slightly chamfered. On the third step stands the socket-stone which is approximately 0.7m high. Its corners are moulded and chamfered so that the top of the stone has an octagonal section. Set into the socket-stone is the shaft which has a square section with chamfered corners. It tapers upwards and is 1.2m high. The lower 0.9m of the shaft represents the remains of the original medieval shaft, while its upper 0.3m is of modern date. The head of the cross takes the form of a stone crucifix with decorated terminals and dates from the late 19th century restoration of the cross. The full height of the cross is approximately 4m. The modern pavement to the west of the cross is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

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: 21591

Legacy System: RSM


RCHME, SJ82NW13, (1974)

End of official listing