Standing cross south of the chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury in the cemetery at Windlehurst


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Standing cross south of the chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury in the cemetery at Windlehurst
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

St. Helens (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 49976 96945

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 at the chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury survives well in its original position on the south side of the chapel. The steps are a good example of a local style and much of the original shaft is intact. The cross served to commemorate the Roman Catholic burial ground and seems to have been erected at the date, 1627, which is shown on the base block. It is of particular interest in that it forms part of the historical record of the strong Roman Catholic community which existed in the region and asserted its independence after the Reformation.


The monument includes a standing cross on a pedestal formed from three steps lying to the south of the ruined chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury. The steps are unusually wide at the base and this is a characteristic of several of the cross bases in the area. It was made as a churchyard cross and the date 1627 carved on the base block may indicate that it was erected to commemorate the graveyard after the chapel was abandoned as a place for Roman Catholic worship. The steps measure 3.4m square at the base and the first step stands 0.35m high. The second step is 2.8m square and 0.35m high and the third step is 2.1m square and 0.35m high. Above these the base is formed from a single block measuring 0.93m square and stands 0.66m high with spurs carved on the angles of the top. The west side of this block is broken away to reveal the cross shaft in the socket. The shaft is broken so that only 0.73m remains above the socket hole. This is a single block of stone tapering from 0.36m at the base and 0.27m at the top. On each face of the shaft is a cross carved in simple outline. There are old graffiti on each face of the shaft. On the west face of the base block is the name `leo' cut by a 19th century restorer. On the east face of this block is the name `Thomas Martendal' and the date 1627. The cross 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.

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Books and journals
'Trans Lancs Chesh Arch Soc' in Windleshaw Cross, (1906)


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

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