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
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
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
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