Lock up and market cross on the green


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019736

Date first listed: 19-Jan-1938

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Sep-2001


Ordnance survey map of Lock up and market cross on the green
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Steeple Ashton

National Grid Reference: ST 90685 56891


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

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.

Lock ups or blind houses are small buildings built as temporary prisons for the incarceration of drunkards, vagrants and people disturbing the peace. Generally stone built but occasionally wooden, they are square, round or octagonal and contain either one cell or one for either sex. A small, sometimes barred window was often included but the inside was always dim, hence the term blind house. In some examples, an iron cradle or wooden bench survives, on which the prisoner slept. They were often built by the parish or as a gift to the village or town by a wealthy resident and are generally centrally placed within the settlement. Blind houses went out of use in the mid-19th century when they were made redundant by the founding of a regular police service. The lock up on the green is a well-preserved example with many original fittings including, unusually, a privy. Its construction is well documented. The market cross is a particularly large and unusually elaborate example which may represent an attempt to revive an earlier market. It is likely to be in its original location.


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


The monument includes a 17th century market cross and an 18th century lock up on the green at Steeple Ashton, a large village situated on a ridge of Coral Rag to the east of Trowbridge. Both the cross and the lock up are Listed Grade II. The cross comprises a large square plinth set on two steps surmounted by a column on which a block sundial and ball finial with an iron cross and crown are set. The entire structure is about 6m high. The lowest step is 1.78m square. The plinth is large, 0.87m square and 0.8m high, with fielded panels and pilasters. The column is tuscan in style, 0.57m in diameter and has the dates of repairs and restorations carved into the top. These include a supposed founding of the market in 1071, and the construction of the cross in 1679. The sundial is a block with four faces and wrought iron hands surmounted by a ball finial and a wrought iron cross and crown. The lock up is octagonal and built of ashlar limestone. It is 2.3m wide from face to face with walls 0.2m thick with a doorway to the north 1.47m high. The door has original strap hinges and a small square window with a hinged iron grille. The roof is domed, also of ashlar and surmounted by a ball finial, the entire structure being 3.6m high. Inside there is a wooden bench and small stone privy. The floor is flagstone and the walls are limewashed. The lock up was built in 1773 by William Rawlins at a cost of 19 pounds and 18 shillings.

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: 34208

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pevsner, N , The Buildings of England: Wiltshire, (1975), 482
Pevsner, N , The Buildings of England: Wiltshire, (1975), 482
Rogers, KH, Steeple Ashton village history and guide, 1987, Unpublished guide

End of official listing