Standing cross south of the chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury in the cemetery at Windlehurst
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Oct-2019 at 23:07:23.
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
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.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
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