Two crosses in St Mary's churchyard


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


Ordnance survey map of Two crosses in St Mary's churchyard
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. 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.

Taunton Deane (District Authority)
Bishop's Lydeard
National Grid Reference:
ST 16761 29732, ST 16767 29752

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.

Despite surviving incomplete and not in its original position, the cross located 15m WSW of the west end of St Mary's church is an important example of its class displaying unusual characteristics. Despite the original cross head missing, the cross located 30m south west of the west end of the church survives well and displays elaborate medieval figurative carving which was described by a 19th century historian as an `unrivalled example of 14th century work'.


The monument, which falls into two separate areas, includes two crosses in St Mary's churchyard. The cross to the north east is located 15m WSW of the west end of the church and is Listed Grade II. Constructed of Ham stone, the remains of the original structure include a socket stone with broached corners, 0.38m high and 0.75m wide, and a length of shaft 0.75m high. A rectangluar Ham stone, ornate carved block is mounted onto the socket stone on the east face of the shaft. A 19th century three-stepped octagonal base supports the original cross structure, constructed of red sandstone rubble; each step is 0.5m high and each side of the base step is 0.85m long. This cross previously stood outside the churchyard and was brought into the sancutuary of the churchyard in the mid-19th century. The second cross is located 30m south west of the west end of the church and is Listed Grade II*.It is constructed from red sandstone ashlar and includes a three-stepped octagonal base, a socket stone, and a shaft. Each step of the base is approximately 0.45m high and the lowest step is 3.9m in diameter. The upper step is surmounted by an octagonal socket stone 0.35m high. Each face is 0.75m wide and decorated with a carved panel depicting scenes from the life of Christ. A tapering, octagonal shaft, aproximately 2m high is set into the socket stone. A canopied figure, documented as St John the Baptist, is carved in relief on the east face.

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), 92-93
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 90-92


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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