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

Cheltenham (District Authority)
Charlton Kings
National Grid Reference:
SO 96427 20458

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 in St Mary's churchyard survives well, despite the head having been restored, with many of its original elements intact in what is likely to be its original location. The medieval cross relates to the church, which dates to the late 14th century.


The monument includes a cross with restored head situated in the churchyard at Charlton Kings approximately 18m north of the church entrance. The cross has a two step calvary, a socket stone, and a shaft surmounted by a terminal and restored lantern head. The first step of the calvary is 2.15m square, its upper surface level with the grass. The second step is 1.45m long north-south, 1.4m long east-west and stands 0.25m high. Above this is the square base of the socket stone. The socket stone has broaches at its angles, forming an octagonal top. It is 0.9m wide and 0.8m high, with a socket 0.3m square in its upper face. The shaft, which measures approximately 1.8m in height, is square at the bottom tapering to the terminal and becoming octagonal in section. Above this sits the restored lantern head bearing reliefs of the Crucifixion and the Madonna on the east and west sides respectively. On the remaining sides are depictions of saints. The cross is Listed Grade II*. The calvary is constructed from stone blocks. The socket stone is hewn from one piece of stone. These, and the shaft, have the appearance of great age, but the lantern head is 19th century. The other parts of the cross are considered to be late 15th century. Pooley, an authority on local crosses, notes that in 1868 a third calvary step was just visible embedded in the earth. Due to the proximity of graves it would appear that this third step has been destroyed. This shaft appears to be of different stone from the calvary and base, and is cemented into the socket stone. The original cross head appears to be sitting on a small plinth near the entrance of the churchyard, but it is not included in the scheduling.

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:
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Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds, (1970), 119-120
Pooley, C, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, (1868), 49


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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