Churchyard cross in St Michael's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016136

Date first listed: 08-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross in St Michael'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: Knill

National Grid Reference: SO 29118 60448


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 Michael's is a good example of a medieval standing cross with a stepped base, a socket stone with a niche and a tabernacle head. Situated close to the south porch of the church it is believed to stand in or near to its original position. Whilst the steps, socket stone and shaft have survived from medieval times, the subsequent restoration of the cross with the re-introduction of the probable original tabernacle head and the addition of a modern crucifix, illustrates the continued function of the cross as a public monument and amenity.


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 Michael's Church, approximately 4m to the south east of the south porch. The cross is medieval in date with later additions and includes a base of three steps and a socket stone, a shaft, a tabernacle head, a finial and a small crucifix. The cross is Listed Grade II.

The steps are rectangular in plan and are constructed of sandstone blocks, similar to those used to build the church. The top corners of each step display decorative chamfers. The rectangular socket stone measures 0.64m north-south by 0.72m east-west and 0.39m high, and has the same decorative chamfers on the top four corners, as displayed on the steps. A trefoil-headed niche is cut into the west face of the socket stone. It measures 0.38m high, 0.16m wide and 60mm deep, and is thought to have been carved to hold the Pyx or Holy Water when Mass was celebrated at the cross, or to hold a statue or icon. The modern shaft is mortared onto the socket stone. It is square at the base, rising through chamfered corners to an octagonal section, and then to a circular section. It extends to a height of 1.7m, and tapers from 0.3m square at the base to 0.2m in diameter at the top. Attached with mortar to the top of the shaft is a rectangular tabernacle head, thought to be original, with shallow ogee-headed niches cut into the north, south and west faces, and a deeper rectangular shaped niche cut into the east face. The head measures 0.39m east-west by 0.27m north-south and 0.47m high. A separate finial stone, mortared to the top of the head, takes the shape of a gabled roof, and acts as a platform for the small, modern, ring-headed crucifix. The overall height of the cross is approximately 3.66m.

The pathway, which abuts the south west corner of the cross, is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

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: 29873

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Marples, B, 'Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists Field Club' in The Niche in Medieval Churchyard Crosses, , Vol. 40, (1972), 321-332
Watkins, A, 'Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists Field Club' in Herefordshire Churchyard Crosses, (1916), 117
RCHM, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Herefordshire, (1934)

End of official listing