Churchyard cross in St Mary's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015389

Date first listed: 24-Dec-1996


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

County: Gloucestershire

District: Cheltenham (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: SO 94855 22556


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 standing cross in St Mary's churchyard, Cheltenham, survives well with many of its original elements intact in what is likely to be its original location. The medieval cross relates to the 14th century church which is the parish church and the only medieval church in Cheltenham.


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


The monument includes a cross situated in St Mary's churchyard in Cheltenham c.12m north east of the church. The cross has a square four step calvary, a socket stone and shaft. The first step of the calvary is 3.6m wide and 0.15m high; the second step is 3m wide and 0.3m high, the third and fourth steps are 2.4m, 1.75m long respectively and are both 0.25m high. Above the calvary is the socket stone which has a square base with convex broaches at its angles, forming an octagonal top with drip moulding. It is 1.1m wide and 1.15m high with a socket 0.45m square. The broken shaft is c.2m high and is square at the bottom and tapers, becoming octagonal in section. The calvary is constructed from stone blocks. The socket stone is hewn from one piece of stone and the whole structure has the appearance of great age. The socket appears to be too big for the base of the shaft which has been cemented into position. The cross is considered to be 14th century and 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: 28810

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, (1868), 68
Pooley, C, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, (1868), 69

End of official listing