Churchyard cross in St Andrew's churchyard


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

North Somerset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 49312 68323

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.

Although the cross head has been replaced, the standing cross in the churchyard at Backwell survives well as a visually impressive monument of the medieval period in what is likely to be its original location.


The monument includes a cross situated in the churchyard at Backwell approximately 5m south east of the church porch.

The cross, which is Listed Grade II, has a four step octagonal calvary, a socket stone and shaft with a decorated terminal surmounted by a lantern cross head. The first step of the calvary is 0.55m high, and the second, third and fourth steps are 0.4m, 0.33m and 0.3m high respectively. The first step is 4.4m in diameter with large ashlar stones on its upper surface, and each side of its octagon is 1.65m long. The width of the octagonal sides of the second, third and fourth steps are 1.2m, 0.9m and 0.6m respectively. Above the fourth step of the calvary is the socket stone with a square base and convex broaches at its angles forming an octagonal top. It is 0.95m wide and 0.65m high with a central socket 0.35m square. The shaft is approximately 3m high, square at its base, but then stopped and continuing in octagonal form as it tapers to an ornamental terminal and cross head. The terminal has a Gothic decoration, and the cross head has four recessed faces formed by moulded spires at its angles. On the west side are the symbols of the Annunciation and on the east, the Crucifixion. On the south side, the arms of the diocese of Bath and Wells are shown, and the arms of the province of Canterbury are shown on the north side. The lantern head is surmounted by a moulded spire.

The calvary is constructed from stone blocks and ashlar stones. The socket stone is hewn from one piece of stone, and the shaft is jointed. The lantern head is a replacement for the stone dial and ball which existed in the 19th century. This restoration is thought to have happened when the cross was refurbished in 1966. The cross is considered to date to the 15th century.

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
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 70-71


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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