Churchyard cross in St George's churchyard
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1015454
Date first listed: 20-Mar-1967
Date of most recent amendment: 18-Nov-1996
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Apr-2019 at 21:26:30.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: ST 28938 37942
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 head of the cross not surviving, the standing cross in the churchyard at Wembdon survives well in what is likely to be its original location. The medieval cross relates to the original medieval church of St George, which was destroyed by fire in 1868 and rebuilt.
The monument includes a restored cross situated in the churchyard of St
George's Church at Wembdon c.8.5m south of the church.
The cross, which is Listed Grade II, has a two step octagonal calvary, a
socket stone and shaft. The first step of the calvary is 2.5m in diameter and
0.5m high. Each side of the octagon is 0.95m wide. The second step is 1.6m in
diameter and 0.2m high, with each side of its octagon 0.65m long. Above this
is the square base of the socket stone. The socket stone has convex broaches
at its angles on the upper side, forming an octagonal top. It is 1m wide and
0.45m high, with a socket 0.35m square in its upper face. The c.1.9m high
octagonal shaft is cemented into the square socket, and tapers towards its
The calvary is constructed from stone blocks, but these were in a ruinous
state in the 19th century and have been restored. The cross is considered to
be 15th century.
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: 28819
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 172
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