Medieval standing cross 6m north west of the west front of St Mary's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015039

Date first listed: 03-Dec-1951

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Medieval standing cross 6m north west of the west front of St Mary's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: West Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Bradford Abbas

National Grid Reference: ST 58721 14290

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.

Despite the fact that the head has been removed the medieval standing cross 6m north west of the west face of St Mary's, Bradford Abbas, is well preserved and, surviving in its original position, remains an important example of its class.


The monument includes a standing cross situated within the churchyard 6m north west of the west front of St Mary's Church. The 15th century cross, made of Ham Hill stone, has two octagonal steps surmounted by a square socket stone which supports a cross shaft. The bottom step, which is chamfered at the base with an overhanging tread at the top, is a maximum of 1.1m wide and 0.55m high. The upper step is similarly chamfered at the base with an overhanging tread, each side being a maximum of 0.84m wide and 0.5m high. The socket stone sits on a chamfered and moulded base which is 1.3m square and there appears to be a layer of lead between the two. The socket stone is a single piece of Ham Hill stone, 1.13m square, with moulded angle piers, moulded top edge and carved panels on each face. The base and the socket stone are 0.7m high. The panels contain quatrefoils apparently enclosing figures of an angel on the west face, a rose on the east face and blank shields on the north and south faces. The socket hole c.0.38m square is run-in with lead. The tapering cross shaft is octagonal at the base, each side being 0.15m wide, with weathered figures beneath canopies on the east and west sides, apparently of the Virgin and Child and a man, suggested as being John the Baptist. There are the remains of a canopy on the south face and two dowel holes on both the north and south faces. Above the canopies the shaft is square with moulded angle piers. The head is missing and the surviving shaft is c.2.3m high. The cross is Listed Grade I.

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: 27439

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing