Medieval church site and churchyard cross, 10m south and 40m south east of St Michael's Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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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 08529 10432, NZ 08557 10422

Reasons for Designation

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little fabric of the first church being still easily visible. Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are identified to be nationally important.

A standing cross is a free standing upright structure, usually of stone, mostly erected during the medieval period (mid-10th to 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 of 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, such 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, Queen Eleanor, who had 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 and buttresses supporting a vaulted canopy, which in turn carried either a shaft and head or 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. Barningham medieval church, though disturbed by later burials, survives as a distinct building platform with medieval gravestones thought to be in their original position. Significant information on the original form, structure and history of the church will survive beneath the present ground surface. The socket stone is well preserved and in its original position.


The monument includes the building platform on which Barningham medieval church stood and the socket stone of a churchyard cross, both situated in the churchyard to the south of the present Church of St Michael. The monument is in two separate areas of protection. The building platform of the medieval church is situated 10m south of the nave wall of the present church. It is best defined on its north east corner where the platform is visible as a 0.5m high bank, 9m north-south by 14m east-west. The surface of the platform has four medieval recumbent gravestones, one of which has an inscription dating it to 1503, all of which are thought to be in their original positions. The centre of the platform is occupied by a family tomb for which the last dated burial is 1758. Other graves on the platform postdate the demolition of the medieval church in 1816, but predate the 20th century. Despite some disturbance by later burials, the platform will retain significant information on the form and structure of the medieval church. The socket stone, which is situated 5m west of the south east corner entrance to the churchyard is 0.7m by 0.6m and 0.4m high. The socket is centrally located and measures 0.25m by 0.2m and 0.1m deep. The socket stone in its original position. The socket stone, and the inscribed recumbent gravestone are Listed Grade II. The earliest physical evidence of the medieval church is the scalloped capital of a 12th century pillar piscina now built into the present church. The earliest documentary evidence dates from 1213 when Hugh Bardolf claimed the advowson (the right of presentation to benefice) of the church against the Prior of Malton. In 1214 Hugh Bardolf quit his claim on the advowson and it passed to the canons of Malton. The church was then passed to Guisborough Priory, which held it until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, when it passed to the Crown. The Crown held it until 1874 when it was given to the Bishops of Ripon. The medieval church was demolished in 1816 and a new church erected to the north. The surface of the metalled path, where it impinges on the area of the monument, 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 2 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of North Riding of Yorkshire, (1914), 42


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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