Cross base in the churchyard of St Mary's Church


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


Ordnance survey map of Cross base in the churchyard of St Mary's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 97444 84495

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 cross base at Disley is an example of a rare archaeological feature. Although the two crosses which used to stand in the socket holes are missing, the double socket is almost unknown elsewhere in the country. The base block has survived well and is relatively unworn. Double crosses also exist at Marple (Robin Hood's Picking Rods) and at Lyme Handley (The Bow Stones).

The round shafted crosses which used to occupy the slots were of a type attributed to the northern part of the kingdom of Mercia and date to the tenth century. The cross base is almost certainly close to its original position and should be regarded as part of a regional group set on the slopes of the hills above the Cheshire Plain.


The monument includes a Grade II Listed cross base for two standing crosses in the churchyard of St Mary's Church at Disley. It lies under the wall of the Leigh burial ground 11m south east of the west gate of the churchyard. A path of stone setts runs along the north side of the cross base.

The cross base comprises a single rectangular block of local sandstone with two socket holes for the accommodation of two cross shafts which no longer survive. It is orientated east to west. The cross base measures 1.85m in length and is 0.87m wide at the eastern end and 1.07m wide at the western end. It varies in height from 0.34m at the eastern end to 0.23m at the western end.

Two socket holes set 0.21m apart are located 0.22m from the eastern edge and 0.2m from the western edge. The eastern socket is 0.51m in diameter and the western 0.62m in diameter. The sockets are bevelled inwards with the eastern socket tapering to 0.48m in diameter and the western to 0.56m. There is a shallow channel cut into the stone between the holes and a shallow channel filled with lead cut from the western edge of the western hole to the edge of the block.

The cross base was found in 1958 by workmen digging for a drain in the field immediately to the south of the church very close to the place where two other crosses, now removed to Lyme Hall, were found in 1848. An early font bowl was also discovered at the same site during the 1958 diggings. This now rests close to the west porch of the church beside the path to the north and is not included in the scheduling.

The stone path to the north of the cross base and any gravestones are not included in the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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
Rosser, CEP, 'Trans Lancs and Cheshire Arch Soc' in Trans Lancs and Cheshire Arch Soc, , Vol. Vol 68, (1958), 142


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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