Churchyard cross at St Mary's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014902

Date first listed: 28-Jul-1960

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross at St Mary's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Bitterley

National Grid Reference: SO 57088 77293


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 cross in St Mary's churchyard is a well preserved example of a medieval churchyard cross with stepped base and lantern head, considered to be one of the finest in the country. It is believed to stand in its original position, and limited development in the area immediately surrounding the cross suggests that archaeological deposits relating to the monument's construction and use in this location are likely to survive intact. Its good condition and unusual decoration enhance the attractiveness of the cross as a public monument and amenity.


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


The monument includes a standing stone cross, situated c.12m south east of the south porch of St Mary's Church, Bitterley. The cross is of grey limestone, of 14th century date, and is Listed Grade I. It includes a stepped base, socket stone, and shaft with decorated head. The base includes four hexagonal steps, measuring 1.75m diameter at the base and 1.1m overall in height. The socket stone is 0.5m high and 0.7m square, and its corners are chamfered above moulded stops, rising to an octagonal top with chamfered edges. The shaft is octagonal in section, 0.3m diameter at the base, and retains its lead sinkings. It is pierced near the base by a hole running north-south, and tapers to a decorated top which supports an elaborate lantern head. This consists of four ogee-headed niches under gabled canopies, each containing sculptured figures, now rather weathered. The wider niches face to east and west, the west facing one containing the Crucifixion and its opposite possibly the Virgin and Child. The overall height of the cross is approximately 4.8m. The grave markers to the north west and east of the cross are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.

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: 27536

Legacy System: RSM


DOE, Buildings of Special Hist & Arch Interest,
Snowdon, Kay, FMW report, (1987)

End of official listing