Mabs Cross on Standishgate, 20m west of Mabs Cross School building


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014719

Date first listed: 01-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of Mabs Cross on Standishgate, 20m west of Mabs Cross School building
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wigan (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: SD 58527 06268

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.

Mabs Cross survives well and retains its eccentric plinth and base as well as part of the shaft. It is one of a group of four medieval crosses intended as waymarkers on the route between Wigan and Chorley. The other three are closer to Standish. The crosses provide important evidence of the medieval route and serve to remind us of medieval travellers and the importance of religion in medieval life.


The monument includes a cross base and part of the shaft which are set on a plinth in front of the school building on Standishgate in Wigan. The cross was moved from across the road in front of no 138 Standishgate during road widening in 1921. The cross is one of a group of four medieval crosses which functioned as waymarkers along the medieval route from Wigan to Chorley. The remains of the cross rest on a plinth of modern slabs in a paved area beside the road. Above this is a plinth of dressed gritstone 1m square and 0.57m high. The base block of gritstone is set askew on this plinth with the leaded boreholes for steel clamps on both the plinth and the base showing that this is the original arrangement. The base block measures 0.7m X 0.7m and is 0.4m high. The socket is 0.4m X 0.3m holding the shaft of which 0.72m remains. This has chamfered edges. The cross gets its name from the penance of Lady Mabel Bradshaigh in which she used to walk barefooted to the cross from Haigh Hall to the north east. She endowed a chantry in the church at Wigan in 1338. The cross is Listed Grade II*. The paving slabs and the surface of the pavement to the west, where they fall within the protective margin, are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath 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: 27583

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Porteus, T C , The Mabs Cross Legend, (1941)
Greater Manchester SMR, (1995)

End of official listing