Cross 160m north east of St Mary Magdalen Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017999

Date first listed: 24-Jul-1998


Ordnance survey map of Cross 160m north east of St Mary Magdalen Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Leicestershire

District: Melton (District Authority)

Parish: Freeby

National Grid Reference: SK 81276 18327

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 cross 160m north east of St Mary Magdalen Church is a good example of a post-medieval commemorative standing cross. It stands in close proximity to the site of the medieval village of Stapleford, or near the original position of a market cross. Limited activity in the area immediately surrounding the cross indicates that archaeological deposits relating to the monument's construction are likely to survive intact. The cross has not been restored, and has continued in use as a monument and amenity from post-medieval times to the present day.


The monument includes a standing stone cross 160m north east of St Mary Magdalen Church. The cross is post-medieval in date and includes a pedestal base, a socket stone, a shaft and cross head.

The pedestal base is 1.2m in height, octagonal in plan and consists of four steps, the lowest of which is a maximum of 2.3m in diameter. The socket stone is approximately 0.8m square and 0.5m high with decoration on each vertical face. Set into the centre of the socket is a chamfered stone shaft, 2.6m high, of square section and decorated with emblem quatrefoils on all faces. It is surmounted by a moulded capital with a cross head. The full surviving height of the cross is approximately 4.3m.

The cross is considered to have been constructed to commemorate a major rebuilding of Stapleford Hall in 1633. It is thought to have been placed on the site of an earlier cross marking the location of Stapleford's Friday market, granted in 1308 to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester. The site of the medieval village of Stapleford lies to the north east and is the subject of a separate scheduling.

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: 30237

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Nichols, J, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, (1795)
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland, (1984)
Leicestershire County Council, Site Summary Sheet 81NW.S,
RCHME, NMR Long Output Form: Sk 81 NW 5,

End of official listing