Standing cross at the Harkirke 8m north west of the chapel


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015598

Date first listed: 22-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Standing cross at the Harkirke 8m north west of the chapel
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Sefton (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: SD 32489 01046


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 base of the standing cross at the site of the Harkirke is part of the evidence for a medieval chapel on or near the site of the present chapel. The cross base survives well in spite of the loss of the original shaft and head. Small incised crosses on the top surface of the block indicate later Christian devotions at the site of the cross and may be from the rededication of the burial ground in AD 1611.


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


The monument includes a medieval cross base which stands 8m from the north west corner of the modern chapel at the site of the Harkirke. The chapel site is believed to have been the site of an older and possibly late Anglo-Saxon church and burial ground. The cross base has had a modern shaft erected in the socket of the single dressed sandstone block. The base block measures 0.9m by 0.8m and 0.2m high above ground. The socket hole is 0.3m square. There are five crosses incised in the top of this stone and all seem to have been cut during the medieval period although they do not form part of the original design. The cross is also within a burial ground formed in 1611 to take the remains of those Roman Catholics who died in the parish of Sefton and were denied burial in the parish church. The present chapel has some early gravestones inserted into the north wall which were found in the vicinity of the building. During the digging of the bank enclosing the burial ground in 1611 a substantial hoard of Viking and Kufic coins was found on the site and dated to AD 915. Silver from these coins has been shown to come from that period. The ground to the west of the chapel was excavated in 1950-51 and no positive identification of an earlier chapel can be confirmed. However the presence of carved and dressed stones on the site suggests that an earlier building is not far away. The cross must have been erected in the churchyard of this building although a date for these remains is not yet clear. The earlier chapel site is not included in the scheduling as its position, extent and date are not fully understood.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 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: 27603

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Thompson, J D A, Inventory of British Coin Hoards AD 600-1500, (1956), 184
Tyrer, F, The Harkirk, (1953), 145
Tyrer, F, The Harkirk, (1953), 154
McKennel, E H, Letter To F Tyrer From, (1974)
SMR, The Harkirk, (1982)
Title: Source Date: 1951 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: record card

End of official listing