Neville's Cross


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


Ordnance survey map of Neville's Cross
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County Durham (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 26257 42022

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.

Neville's Cross, despite being poorly preserved, is in its original position. It has a strong historical association with the Battle of Neville's Cross.


The monument includes a pyramidal base, sole stone, socket stone and shaft situated on the north side of Crossgate Peth opposite St John's Church in Durham. It is surrounded by a wall which stands 1.5m high, surrounded by iron railings. Both the wall and the railings are included in the scheduling. The enclosure formed by the wall has a cobbled surface that is level with the top of the wall and measures 5m square. The wall retains the raised ground level that the cross rests on. The pyramidal base of the cross measures 3m square by 1m high and is built of rough sandstone blocks. The top of the base is flagged. The modern sole stone is composed of two ashlar blocks crudely chamfered at the top and is cemented onto the base. It measures 1.4m square. The socket stone rests on the sole stone and measures 1m square by 0.6m high. Its four corners have been chamfered to make it octagonal at its top. These chamfered corners had projecting carvings of the four evangelists. Only the carvings on the north west and south east corners remain. Near the base on each side of the socket stone are two holes measuring 5cm wide by 7cm high, which are believed to be lewis holes. The socket measures 0.36m square. The shaft is not the original and is believed to be a reused milestone. It is cemented into the socket and measures 0.35m by 0.2m wide and 1m high. The cross, which is Listed Grade II, is believed to be in situ as its present location is the same as depicted on both the first and second edition 1:2500 Ordnance Survey maps. A cross is known to have existed in the area before the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346 to which the surviving cross is attributed. In 1323 the then Neville's Cross was described as a boundary marker in the deeds of Durham Priory and believed to have been used as an indicator for the ancient circular enclosure known as Howlcroft to the south. The present cross was erected to commemorate the Battle of Neville's Cross, although the only recognisable surviving element is the socket stone. The cross is described in the `Rites of Durham' in 1593 as having a seven-stepped base, sole stone, socket stone, shaft, boss and crucifix. The socket stone had the carved pictures of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on the corners. The shaft was octagonal and three and a half yards high. The boss was octagonal. The crucifix had a stone cover and bore the image of Christ on the cross with Mary on one side and St John the Evangelist on the other. This cross was knocked down and defaced in 1589. In the mid-18th century the cross was depicted in a drawing as only the socket stone resting on a heavily undermined base. A drawing from 1778 shows the socket stone on its mound and with the inserted milestone.

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
Mee, A, The King's England Durham Twixt Tyne and Tees, (1953), 148
Drury, J L, 'The Battle of Nevilles Cross 1346' in The Monument at Neville's Cross, (1998)
Roberts, M, 'The Battle of Nevilles Cross 1346' in Nevilles Cross, Durham: A Suggested Reconstruction, (1998)


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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