Anglo-Saxon period cross in churchyard of All Saints


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


Ordnance survey map of Anglo-Saxon period cross in churchyard of All Saints
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 28463 07939

Reasons for Designation

High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross. High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services, some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church, but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the art styles and mythology of Viking settlers. Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally important.

The monument is of major importance because it is one of only a small number of Anglo-Saxon period monuments having an otherwise unique repertoire of design characteristics confined to a small regional group of crosses in southern Yorkshire. In addition, the monument is in a good state of preservation, with the base of the shaft, in particular, being most instructive on the iconographic content of this group. The survival of a likely contemporary crosshead is also relatively rare in the context of freestanding Anglo-Saxon period monuments.


The monument includes the remains of a cross shaft and cross head of Anglo-Saxon date, erected in the churchyard of All Saints, Cawthorne, near Barnsley. The shaft has been reconstructed with the addition of more recent sections of masonry. The cross stands at the western edge of the older part of the churchyard, the latter having now been extended to the west. There is little likelihood that the cross stands at its original location. All Saints Church is recorded in the Domesday survey and occupies a small bluff of land overlooking much of the present village. The oldest surviving fabric of the church is thought to date from the 13th century, although there is an Early Norman font inside. The reconstructed shaft, together with the crosshead, now stands about 4.5m high. It sits in a stepped base arrangement which is of 19th century or early 20th century date. There are three sections of original pre-Conquest work as follows. Firstly, the crosshead surmounting the shaft measuring approximately 0.6m by 0.7m with a thickness of about 0.13m. Secondly, the uppermost portion of the shaft measuring 0.35 by 0.22m with an average thickness of 0.13m. Thirdly, the base of the shaft measuring 0.95m by 0.4m with an average thickness of 0.24m. Between the lower portion and the uppermost section of the shaft is a recent addition of a simply carved sandstone shaft, an attempt to reconstruct the cross to its estimated original height. The shaft is slightly tapered from 0.4m by 0.3m at the base to 0.25m by 0.17m at the top. The original fragments, although showing some signs of some weathering in places, are in relatively good condition. The shaft stands in a stepped base which appears to have been constructed during either the 19th or 20th century. It is not clear how much of the shaft lies below the base socket. Three of the crosshead arms are decorated on the west side with abstract patterns of semi-circles within incised squares. There is an incised grooved moulding around the perimeter of the arms. The centre of the crosshead contains an embossed ovoid shape which is coarsely tooled-off. The shape indicates that this may have once depicted a human head, subsequently defaced. A similar crosshead, also with a raised, tooled-off ovoid motif can also be seen at Dewsbury. The east side of the crosshead is mainly plain with a perimeter incised grooved moulding. At the centre is a small boss resembling a wreath. There appears to have been a pattern at the bottom of the lowest arm which has subsequently been damaged. The upper part of the shaft has an undecorated finely-tooled face on each side surrounded by an incised groove (doubled on the west face). It is obviously incomplete. The lowest portion of the shaft is the largest and is decorated on all sides. The west side contains eight small arrangements of the same pattern found on the west side of the crosshead - semi-circles in an incised square. However, about two-thirds of the face contains what appears to be the body and legs of a grotesque, apparently suspended figure. The naked feet, toes and hands of the figure are still visible. The north face contains one similar pattern to those on the crosshead and also four semi-circles contained within a circle, resembling a hot-cross bun. Just below the centre of the shaft on this face is an multi-strand square panel of interlace. The east face is mainly undecorated but has a series of ten semi-circles (without containment) at the bottom. The south face has three square panels of semi- circles with the most part plain. All faces have incised grooves close to the edges (doubled on the west). All of the original components of the cross appear to have been carved from local Coal Measures sandstone. Built into the east wall of the north aisle to the present church building is another crosshead of similar shape to that on the churchyard cross. This also is decorated with semi-circles and has a grotesque head carved in the centre with two of the semi-circles forming the ears or large ear-rings. This fragment is not however included in the scheduling. The cross fragments are thought to date from the 11th century, although recent studies indicate that they may belong to the early 10th century. The fragments belong to a discrete regional group of crosses all contained within the present county of South Yorkshire. Other examples of the group can be found at Mexborough, Penistone, High Hoyland, Ecclesfield and possibly at Conisbrough. The decoration, large areas of finely-tooled plain stone, together with the incised carving technique, are unique to this region. The decorative elements are untypical for Anglo-Saxon crosses and kindred monuments and are, in some cases, better likened to the pre-Conquest inscribed stones of western Britain. Excluded from the scheduling are all stone walls fences and funerary furniture, where they fall within the cross's protective margin, although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 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:
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Books and journals
Collingwood, W G, Northumbrian Crosses of the Pre-Norman Age, (1927)
Ryder, P F, 'County Archaeological Monograph No.2' in Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire, (1982), 105-8
Sidebottom, P C, The Ecclesfield Cross and 'Celtic' Survival, 1997, (forthcoming)
Sidebottom, PC, Schools of Anglo-Saxon Monuments in the North Midlands, 1994, unpublished PhD thesis, Sheffield


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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