Standing cross in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels' Church, High Ercall


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020660

Date first listed: 01-Jan-1971

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Apr-2002


Ordnance survey map of Standing cross in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels' Church, High Ercall
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. 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.

District: Telford and Wrekin (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Ercall Magna

National Grid Reference: SJ 59470 17301


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 St Michael and All Angels' Church, High Ercall, 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 hollow cut into the bottom of the cross base indicates the particular significance of this cross during Palm Sunday solemnities. The cross is in its original position, and the area immediately surrounding it appears to be largely undisturbed and is therefore likely to contain the buried remains of the contemporary ground surface. The modification of the cross to provide a platform for a sundial illustrates the continuing significance of the monument as a public amenity.


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 was later used as the base for a sundial, and is situated in the churchyard 40m to the south of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, High Ercall, which dates from the late 12th century. The church is a Listed Building, Grade I. The circular cross base, into which the cross shaft has been inserted, consists of dressed sandstone blocks and a circular dressed sandstone coping stone, with traces of a simple moulding around its edge. The stone blocks and coping stone are bonded with a lime mortar. The cross base measures 1.45m in diameter at the bottom, 1m across the top and stands to a height of 0.73m. A vertical-sided hollow, 0.12m by 0.12m, has been cut into the bottom of the cross base to the north west. During the medieval period this hollow was used to hold a chalice containing the host, the bread consectrated in the Eucharist, prior to worship in the church to commemorate Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. In the post-medieval period the square base of the cross shaft was reduced in height to the level of the top of the coping stone in order to create the base for a sundial. Attached with lead to the base of the cross shaft is an octagonal block of dressed sandstone, 0.38m across and 0.18m high, onto which an octagonal iron plate for a sundial was fixed. The sundial has been removed and has been erected in the church, and is therefore not included in the scheduling. It is made of bronze with an ornate gnomon (the vertical projection which cast a shadow indicating the time of day). The dial, with two 12 hour series in Roman numerals, is inscribed `Thomas Ward fecit 1718' (made by Thomas Ward 1718). The cross is Listed Grade II. The grave immediately to the north of the standing cross is totally excluded from the scheduling.

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: 34921

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing