Standing cross at the Church of St Mary


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012879

Date first listed: 12-Jun-1995


Ordnance survey map of Standing cross at the Church of St Mary
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Sheffield (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Ecclesfield

National Grid Reference: SK 35302 94190


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.

Though in fairly poor repair and missing its cross head, the cross in St Mary's churchyard is a good example of a simple standing cross which appears to be in its original location. Its churchyard setting suggests that it played an important role in religious festivals though it may alternatively have had a sepulchral function.


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


The monument is a medieval or early post-medieval standing cross located in the churchyard south of St Mary's Church, Ecclesfield. It includes a stepped base or calvary surmounted by a socket stone or socle and the stump of the original cross shaft. The upper part of the shaft, together with the cross head, is missing and its place taken by a 19th century sundial. The calvary comprises two square steps with an overall diameter of 2.1m and a combined height of 75cm. The socle is 25cm high and has a diameter of 50cm. It is octagonal with a chamfered rim and rounded stops on alternate faces. The surviving portion of the cross shaft is 55cm high and is square sectioned with chamfered corners that close towards the base to provide a square pedestal. The sundial above is 50cm high and dressed to match the cross shaft but includes, at the top, a separate moulded capital which has incised decoration on all four faces and an intact gnomon. Falling within the area of the scheduling are a number of 19th century grave slabs. These are excluded from the scheduling though the ground underneath 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.

Legacy System number: 23389

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Gatty, Reverend A, A Life at One Living, (1884), 150-1
Hill, Angela Shackleton, (1994)
PI 174,

End of official listing