Three early medieval cross shafts in West Park
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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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 91059 74140
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 and some stone crosses display evidence of
carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this
tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be
either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within
dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently
small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross.
High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with
established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services,
some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes
or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration
of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and
interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the
rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved
ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these
pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and
erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church,
but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the
art styles and mythology of Viking settlers.
Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been
identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are
fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to
represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were
defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th
centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new
building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and
changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs
during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the
north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally
The cross shafts at Macclesfield have survived well in spite of losing their cross heads. They form part of a rare group of monuments with round shafts dating from the late ninth century. Although they are not in their original location they give us insight into the development of Christianity in this region.
The monument comprises three standing early medieval cross shafts now located in a children's playground in West Park, Macclesfield. They have been erected at the intersection of two paths on the east side of the park and the group is 15m from the path to the north and 22m from the path to the west.
The cross shafts are set in a triangle, 2m from each other.
The eastern cross is a columnar shaft, tapering to a collar with a square- sectioned neck above. The cross head and a portion of the neck is missing. The whole is carved out of a single block of local fine gritstone. The shaft is set onto a plinth of freestone which is set in concrete and lifts it 0.12m from the ground level. The shaft measures 1.89m from the point where it has been set into the plinth to the top. At the base it is 0.48m in diameter, tapering to 0.35m where it meets a collar of twin roll mouldings. The collar starts at 1.4m from the base. Above this is a decorated square neck with no transition between the column and the collar. This has a simple roll moulding at the corners and on each face is decorated with fine, if worn, carving. The decoration is as follows: on the west face is a tightly executed vine-scroll with three coils and pendant leaves; on the south face is an incised key decoration. On the east and north faces are interlace decorations of fine quality. The shaft dates from the late ninth or early tenth century. The shaft is worn and has been inscribed with carved letters on the south side. These letters would seem to read E.F and are a later addition.
The southern cross is another columnar shaft with a collar and square sectioned neck. It has been cut from a single block of local gritstone. This is earth fast and is 2.1m from the ground to the top where the cross head and part of the neck has been broken off. At the base it is 0.55m in diameter tapering slightly to the collar where it is 0.38m in diameter. The collar consists of two roll mouldings and above it the shaft has been carved into a square section with shoulders decorated with roll mouldings at the corners. There is no apparent decoration on the faces of this top portion. This shaft is of the late ninth or early tenth century in date.
On the east side the shaft has been sheared away to make a flat inside surface for a gate post. Two hinge holes at 1.23m above ground have been repaired with stone inserts. Weathering of the stone has begun to reveal the grain of the stone and small fault lines give the impression of striations on the surface.
The western cross comprises a cross shaft formed out of a single block of gritstone. It is a column with a collar and square sectioned neck. The cross head and part of the neck are missing. The shaft is earth fast and measures 2.15m from the ground to the top. At the base it is 0.58m in diameter and tapers to 0.41m at the collar. The collar is a double roll moulding surmounted by shoulders leading to the squared neck. The corners are finished with a roll moulding and the faces of the neck appear to be undecorated but weathering may have obscured what there was. This shaft dates from the end of the ninth century or the tenth.
This shaft has been sheared away on the north side to make a flat surface for a gate post. The two hinge holes at a point 0.98m above the ground have been roughly repaired with cement and a good repair has been made to the east face of the neck with inserted stone and cement. There are some old scars on the base column.
These three cross shafts have been removed from their original position at Ridge Hall Farm in Sutton. They are of a type recognised as late Mercian Anglo-Saxon round shafted crosses which are found in the Peak and on the hillsides above the Cheshire Plain. Other examples of this cross type survive at Wincle and Astbury but they are uncommon and give insight into the local flowering of Christianity and perhaps indicate the northern boundary of the Kingdom of Mercia in later Anglo-Saxon times.
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Collingwood, W G, Northumbrian Crosses of the Pre-Norman Age, (1927), 8
Earwacker, JP, East Cheshire, (1880), 486
Ormerod, , History of Cheshire, (1882), 764
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