Malpas cross at town centre junction of Church Street and Oldhall Street
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Sep-2019 at 14:32:30.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Cheshire West and Chester (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SJ 48742 47246
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 at Malpas is an example of a prestige medieval cross and survives well in spite of the 19th century replacement of the superstructure. The gradation of the octagonal plinth steps is masonry of a high order and little of the original structure has been replaced or damaged over the last four centuries. There will be remains of the medieval town centre beneath the structure. The cross is in its original position in the main street of Malpas and served to mark a medieval market, preaching station and meeting place for the medieval community.
The monument includes a late medieval stepped plinth for a cross surmounted by
a 19th century Gothic spire erected as a memorial to a former vicar of the
The base is an octagonal plinth formed from sandstone blocks in seven steps.
These are gradually diminished on the upper western side so that only four
steps are visible above the road surface. On the south side the ground slope
has been stepped up to the space in front of the shops and topped by bollards
and a cast iron waste bin. These steps are built to coincide with the steps of
the cross. The cobbles of an earlier street surface are visible on the west
side for 0.5m from the cross base.
The steps are measured from the east side as follows. Step 1 is a side of the
octagon and is 3.25m wide and 0.9m high. Step 2 is 3.04m wide and 0.32m high.
Step 3 is 2.8m wide and 0.3m high. Step 4 is 2.61m wide and 0.28m high. Step
5 is 2.4m wide and 0.28m high. Step 6 is 2.1m wide and 0.28m high and step
7 is 1.9m wide and again 0.28m high. The top of this platform is well pointed
and has steel ties in lead to hold the structure in place.
Above the medieval plinth is a sandstone cross base in two octagonal steps.
These are 1.1m wide and 0.84m wide respectively and 0.24m high. A sandstone
octagonal pillar with a spire has been erected above. The pillar is decorated
with trifoliar panels and the spire has crockets on each corner edge running
the height of the cross to a simple knop at the top. This now has a lightning
conductor and copper earth tubes to the base. This Victorian work is of good
quality and sensitive to the spirit of the original.
The whole structure is about 8m high from the street on the east side.
The pillar is inscribed in memory of the Rev Charles Thurlow and dated 1873.
The monument is Listed Grade II.
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:
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