Standing cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Mary the Virgin


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020658

Date first listed: 05-Jul-2002


Ordnance survey map of Standing cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Mary the Virgin
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Whitton

National Grid Reference: SO 57590 72851


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.

The standing cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Mary the Virgin is a good example of this class of monument. While it served to remind the local medieval population of the daily importance of piety, the niche cut into the base of the socket stone indicates the particular significance of this cross during Palm Sunday solemnities. The cross is in its original location, and the area immediately surrounding it appears to be undisturbed and is therefore likely to contain the buried remains of the contemporary ground surface.


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


The monument includes the extant and buried remains of a medieval standing cross, which is situated 8m to the south of the Church of Mary the Virgin, within the churchyard. The church dates from the 12th century. It is a Listed Building Grade II*, and is not included in the scheduling. The standing cross is raised upon two circular steps; the lowest has a diameter of 2m. The steps support a circular socket stone, 0.6m high and 0.8m in diameter, into which the shaft of the cross has been inserted. The octagonal shaft has a square base and stands to a height of 1.15m. The shaft, socket stone and steps are all fashioned from sandstone. A cusped ogee-headed niche, probably dating to the 14th century, has been cut into the base of the socket stone to the west. During the medieval period the niche was used to hold a chalice containing the host, the bread consecrated in the Eucharist, prior to worship in the church to commemorate Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The cross is Listed Grade II.

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: 34918

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing