Legs Cross


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018638

Date first listed: 14-Dec-1926

Date of most recent amendment: 15-Feb-1999


Ordnance survey map of Legs Cross
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Dec-2018 at 17:38:19.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Bolam

National Grid Reference: NZ 20712 22501


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

Legs Cross survives in good condition and is an excellent example of an early medieval boundary cross reusing the site of a Roman milestone.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a mid-9th century cross, which is situated in a field to the west of the B6275 and 50m south of a crossroads with a minor road. The cross is listed Grade II*. Visible remains at the site include the shaft, socle and an earth mound. The socle and shaft are composed of sandstone and stand to a height of 2.6m. The shaft is 1.7m tall and tapers towards its top. The base of the shaft is 0.3m east-west and 0.4m wide north-south. On the east face of the shaft the straight line mouldings which separated panels of interlacing are discernible. The shaft is cemented onto the socle. The socle is 0.9m high, 0.6m wide east- west by 0.8m north-south and is cemented at its base. The socle and shaft stand on a mound that is triangular in plan and constructed of earth and stone. The points of the triangle are to the north, south west and east of the cross. The east point is now truncated by widening of the B6275. Three footings of an iron railings perimeter, now removed, can still be seen to the north, south and west of the cross. The monument is in its original position and is shown on the 2nd edition Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map of 1896. It lies alongside the Roman road known as Dere Street, running north from Piercebridge. The cross reuses the position of a Roman milestone as a boundary between the parishes of Gainford and Staindrop. A foundation stone for a Roman milestone which used to lie next to the monument is no longer evident.

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: 32042

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Cramp, R J, The Brit Acad Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture in England Volume 1 pt1, (1984), 122
'Northern Echo' in Mysteries Set In Stone, (1990)
Wooler, E, 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-on-Tyne' in Legs Cross, , Vol. Ser.3, 3, (1907), 71 - 72

End of official listing