Churchyard cross in St Mary the Virgin's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016128

Date first listed: 24-Sep-1997


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

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Ross-on-Wye

National Grid Reference: SO 59841 24082


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 churchyard cross at St Mary's is a good example of a medieval standing cross with an octagonal stepped base. It occupies a prominent position close to the north east entrance to the church. Whilst most of the cross has survived from medieval times, subsequent restoration has resulted in its continual function as a public monument and amenity. The inscription commemorating victims of the plague in the 17th century provides a valuable insight into the social history of the town.


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


The monument includes a standing stone cross located within the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin's Church, approximately 42m to the north east of the church. The cross is medieval in origin with later additions. It includes a base of three steps and a socket stone, the shaft, the knop and the head.

The steps are octagonal in plan and constructed from large rectangular sandstone blocks. The bottom step is made up of 15 stones; it measures 2.75m in diameter by 0.26m in height. The middle step incorporates ten stones, has a diameter of 2.1m and is also 0.26m high; the top step incorporates nine stones and measures 1.4m in diameter by 0.26m in height. The socket stone rests on the uppermost step. It is made up of two separate stones, one immediately above the other. The bottom stone measures 0.78m square by 0.16m deep. It is square in plan and chamfers upwards to a smaller square, which neatly matches the smaller top stone. The top stone is 0.72m square in plan at the base. The corners are chamfered to form an upper surface of octagonal section. The height is 0.5m. Inscribed on the east face of the socket stone are the words `Plague A.D. 1637, Burials 315, Libera Nos Domine'. It is believed that 315 victims of the plague, which hit Ross-on-Wye in 1637, were buried in a pit to the west of the cross. The shaft is mortised into the socket stone and bonded with lead. It is square in section at the base tapering upwards in octagonal section. The knop is also octagonal in section, and joins the shaft to the head, which takes the form of a crucifix with foliate decoration at the terminals. Both the knop and head represent modern additions to the cross. The full height of the cross is approximately 3.6m.

The cross is Listed Grade II*.

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: 29849

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historic Monuments of Herefordshire, (1932), 160
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Ross on Wye, pamphlet on church and churchyard

End of official listing