Churchyard cross, St Mary's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013270

Date first listed: 05-Jan-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: Lincolnshire

District: East Lindsey (District Authority)

Parish: West Torrington

National Grid Reference: TF 13500 82036


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 St Mary's Church, West Torrington, is a good example of a standing cross with a quadrangular socket stone and octagonal shaft. Situated on the south side of the church it is believed to stand in or near its original position, and archaeological deposits relating to the monument's construction and use are likely to survive intact. While part of the cross has survived from medieval times, the subsequent restoration of the steps, shaft and head has resulted in 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 the remains of a standing stone cross located in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, West Torrington, to the south east of the south porch. The cross is medieval in origin with post-medieval and modern additions. The monument includes the base, comprising two steps and a socket stone, the shaft, knop and head.

The steps are approximately square in plan and constructed of large rectangular blocks. An inscription on the western face of the upper step records the restoration of the steps in 1892. On this step stands the socket stone, a plain limestone block of rectangular section with lightly chamfered upper corners. The top of the stone slopes upwards to the socket, into which the shaft is set with lead. The socket stone is believed to be medieval in date. The shaft is rectangular in section at the base with chamfered corners tapering upwards in irregular octagonal section. The lower part of the shaft is 1.07m high and is inscribed on the western side with the date 1700. The upper part of the shaft is integral with the knop and head which are all late 19th century in date. The head takes the form of a gabled cross carved with the figures of the Virgin and Child on the east side and a Crucifixion on the west. The full height of the cross is approximately 3.6m.

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: 22679

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Davies, D S, 'Lincolnshire Notes & Queries' in Ancient Stone Crosses in Lindsey and Holland Divisions of Lincs, , Vol. XIII no8, (1915), 225-226

End of official listing