Anglo-Saxon cross in St John the Baptist's churchyard


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


Ordnance survey map of Anglo-Saxon cross in St John the Baptist's churchyard
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Darlington (Unitary Authority)
Low Dinsdale
National Grid Reference:
NZ 34669 11202

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.

Though weathered, the 11th century cross shaft at St John the Baptist's churchyard represents an important example of the last phases of the Anglian tradition.


The monument includes an 11th century Anglo-Saxon cross shaft in St John the Baptist's churchyard, Low Dinsdale. It is situated on a low earthwork bank which was formerly a churchyard boundary, 5m west of the church. The coarse sandstone shaft is rectangular in plan and tapers with its height. It is 0.4m wide by 0.25m deep at its base and 1.04m high and has decoration on all four sides. The broad west face has four ornamental panels divided by flat band mouldings. Three panels are of free rings linked horizontally by diagonal and surrounding strands and the bottom panel of the same motif but the strands twist and fall into a triangle with pendant loops. The narrow south face is of continuous irregular plait with opposing diagonals and free rings. The broad east face is indecipherable, though sources describe panels of grooved interlace and a compartment in the form of a shield containing a curious design with triquetra terminations. The narrow north face is of continuous four-strand plain plait. The north east corner has a 5cm wide band of continuous two strand plait. This type of shaft, with panels of plait on the broad face and continuous plait on the narrow, forms the last phases of the Anglian tradition and is dated to the third quarter of the 11th century. The cross, which is Listed Grade II*, is in its original position and stands in an area of undisturbed ground that will have preserved deposits beneath the present ground surface. St John the Baptist's Church was built of red sandstone c.1196. It was restored in 1875-6 and 1905. The longevity of worship at the site is indicated by the number of 10th and 11th century cross fragments and by the presence of an 11th century recumbent grave cover.

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
Cramp, R, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture in England: Volume I, (1984), 63
Cramp, R, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture in England: Volume I, (1984), 151


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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