Market cross in the market place


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


Ordnance survey map of Market cross in the market place
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mendip (District Authority)
Shepton Mallet
National Grid Reference:
ST 61887 43652

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.

Despite several phases of restoration, the market cross in the market place at Shepton Mallet retains features and stonework from its original construction and continues to perform its original function of marking the site of the ancient market area, a charter for which was granted to the town in 1219. The cross provides a focal point for the townspeople and has historical associations which include having been used for the execution of 12 rebels of the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 who were hung, drawn and quartered there. The cross, which is known to have been built at the start of the 16th century, will retain architectural evidence which will be informative about the design of such monuments in the late Middle Ages.


The monument includes a medieval market cross located at the west end of the market place in Shepton Mallet town centre, at the junction of High Street and Town Street. The market cross, which is Listed Grade II*, is constructed from dressed Doulting stone and is formed by a benched hexagonal column, each side 1.8m long at its base, enclosed by an open arcade of six segmental arches resting on plain pillars each of which is supported by a two stepped stone block 1m in height and set 2.3m apart. A parapet surrounds the top of the arches and is decorated at each corner, and over the centre of each arch, with a crocketed finial. A pinnacled spire in three tiered stages rises from the central column through the wooden rafters which form the framework of the roof. Each face of the lower two tiers is ornately decorated with a canopied niche. The third tier is less ornate and forms the top of the spire which is crowned with a modern cross. A sundial adorns the wall at the apex of the south arch. The market cross was established in its present position in the market place in 1500 and was dedicated to the memory of Walter Buckland and his wife; it is believed that the central column forms part of that original structure. The addition of the arched shelter took place around 1700 and the whole of this structure has seen several phases of restoration work during the 18th century and more extensively in the 19th century. The modern paving slabs around the base of the cross structure are excluded from the scheduling where they fall within its 1m protective margin, although the ground beneath them 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 125-131
ST 64 SW 17, NMR, Market Cross,


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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