The White Cross at the junction of five roads, White Cross


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.

County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SO 49287 40665

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 White Cross at Hereford is a good example of an elaborate form of medieval standing cross with original hexagonal base and pedestal, and restored shaft and head. Crosses of this architectural quality are rare nationally. The cross 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. Documentary references to the construction and function of the cross further increase interest in the monument, and its Victorian restoration illustrates its continued function as a public monument and amenity.


The monument includes the remains of the White Cross, a standing stone cross situated at a road junction, on the west side of Hereford. The cross, formerly known as the Whitefriars' Cross, was erected by Lewis Charlton, Bishop of Hereford (1361-9), reportedly to mark the site of a market held outside the city walls during a plague. Architectural details support a date in the third quarter of the 14th century for the cross, which is made of local sandstone and is Listed Grade II*. The monument had lost its cross head by the early 17th century, and was restored in 1864, thus the base is principally of medieval date and the shaft and cross head are Victorian replacements. The base of the cross takes the form of a series of eight steps surmounted by a high pedestal and socket stone, all of which are hexagonal in plan. The steps, which are supported by a middle core, are irregular in height and width and the lowest step is now below ground level. Together they stand to a height of 1.65m above ground level and reach a maximum width of 5.15m. The pedestal is 2.4m high and 1.25m in width, including a moulded plinth and embattled cornice. The six vertical faces of the pedestal are each moulded in the form of a recessed rectangular panel with elaborately decorated surround and tracery in the upper part, below which is a raised shield bearing the arms of the Charlton family. The six coats of arms alternate between a lion rampant and a lion rampant with crosses. Parts of the pedestal retain slight traces of plastering, and it was probably also painted at one time. Recessed behind the pedestal's embattled cornice is a moulded and chamfered socket stone which now tapers up to the base of the shaft which was added in the Victorian period. The restoration, instigated by Lord Saye and Sele, a canon of the cathedral, is thought to have been carried out to designs by the architect Sir Gilbert Scott. Some broken medieval stonework was replaced and a new shaft and cross head were erected on the original base, giving the whole monument a total height of 5.35m. The shaft, which tapers slightly upwards, includes an embattled base and knop, all hexagonal in plan. At the top is a cross head in the shape of a Latin cross with foliated terminals. The modern paving around the cross, and the concrete covers of the telephone cable trench which passes alongside, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Herefordshire, south west, (1931), 128
Hereford Archaeology Unit, , 'Hereford Archaeology Series' in The White Cross, Hereford: Iterim Report 1992, , Vol. 162, (1992)
Hereford Archaeology Unit, , 'Hereford Archaeology Series' in The White Cross, Hereford: Survey and Analytical Description, , Vol. 122, (1991)


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

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