Wayside cross base on south side of the churchyard wall at Scawton


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012889

Date first listed: 19-Oct-1995


Ordnance survey map of Wayside cross base on south side of the churchyard wall at Scawton
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Ryedale (District Authority)

Parish: Old Byland and Scawton


National Grid Reference: SE 54875 83570


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

Reasons for Designation

Wayside crosses are one of several types of Christian cross erected during the medieval period, mostly from the 9th to 15th centuries AD. In addition to serving the function of reiterating and reinforcing the Christian faith amongst those who passed the cross and of reassuring the traveller, wayside crosses often fulfilled a role as waymarkers, especially in difficult and otherwise unmarked terrain. The crosses might be on regularly used routes linking ordinary settlements or on routes having a more specifically religious function, including those providing access to religious sites for parishioners and funeral processions, or marking long-distance routes frequented on pilgrimages. Over 350 wayside crosses are known nationally, concentrated in south west England throughout Cornwall and on Dartmoor where they form the commonest type of stone cross. A small group also occurs on the North York Moors. Relatively few examples have been recorded elsewhere and these are generally confined to remote moorland locations. Outside Cornwall almost all wayside crosses take the form of a `Latin' cross, in which the cross-head itself is shaped within the projecting arms of an unenclosed cross. In Cornwall wayside crosses vary considerably in form and decoration. The commonest type includes a round, or `wheel', head on the faces of which various forms of cross or related designs were carved in relief or incised, the spaces between the cross arms possibly pierced. The design was sometimes supplemented with a relief figure of Christ and the shaft might bear decorative panels and motifs. Less common forms in Cornwall include the `Latin' cross and, much rarer, the simple slab with a low relief cross on both faces. Rare examples of wheel-head and slab-form crosses also occur within the North York Moors group. Most wayside crosses have either a simple socketed base or show no evidence for a separate base at all. Wayside crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval religious customs and sculptural traditions and to our knowledge of medieval routeways and settlement patterns. All wayside crosses which survive as earth- fast monuments, except those which are extremely damaged and removed from their original locations, are considered worthy of protection.

Scawton Cross is a wayside cross on the old road from Helmsley via Rievaulx to the west. Although it now lacks both the shaft and head, its location and survival as a cross base at the Church of St Mary, Scawton, make it important to our understanding of medieval communications and the religious observances for travellers. It is one of a series along the road of which Griff Cross and Cooper Cross are further examples. This route is mentioned in Rievaulx charters of the 12th century. Locally it is known as the Sperragate.


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


The monument includes a stone cross base known as Scawton Cross. It lies beside the churchyard wall on the south side on a triangle of grass formed by the junction of the minor road through the village to Rievaulx and a lane by the church. It is on the east side of the road.

Scawton Cross is now a sandstone base for a cross of which no shaft or head survives. This stands 0.41m high above the ground. It is 0.68m wide on the south face and 0.6m wide on the west face. It tapers to 0.58m and 0.54m at the top. There is a carved depression in the top squared to make a socket for a shaft. The shaft is broken within the socket leaving it only 0.12m deep at the middle. The socket measures 0.33m by 0.34m at the top.

The base is outside the churchyard and therefore represents an example of a wayside cross on the old road from Helmsley to Hambleton through Rievaulx which provides the focal point of the route. This road used to be called the Sperragate. In this case the cross should be seen as part of a series of wayside crosses of medieval date along the road, namely Griff Cross, Scawton Cross and Cooper Cross. The church is a restored late Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Norman church with simple nave and chancel and predates the cross by at least a century.

The wall of the churchyard and the bench on a concrete plinth beside the cross are not included in the scheduling.

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: 25638

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hayes, R H, Old Roads and Pannierways in North East Yorkshire, (1988), 53

End of official listing