Standing cross in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels' Church
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Oct-2019 at 16:07:35.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
- Alberbury with Cardeston
- National Grid Reference:
- SJ 35857 14427
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, Alberbury, is a fine example of this class of monument. It served to remind the local medieval population of the importance of piety and may have played an important role during Palm Sunday solemnities. The cross is in its original position and the area immediately surrounding it appears to be 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.
The monument includes the extant and buried remains of a medieval standing
cross, which was modified to support a sundial. It is situated immediately
south of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, within the churchyard. The
church dates from the 12th century, and is a Listed Building Grade II*.
Alberbury Castle, 55m to the south west is the subject of a separate
The standing cross is raised upon a flight of four square steps consisting of
dressed rectangular stone blocks. The lowest step measures 3.5m across. The
steps support a square socket stone, 0.89m across and 0.4m high, the north
eastern and south western corners of which are chamfered, with carved heads at
the north western and south eastern corners. Into the socket stone the shaft
of the cross has been inserted. The cross shaft is rectangular with chamfered
corners and a plain moulded capital or knop, the combined height of which is
The head of the cross, above the capital, has been removed and in its place a
sundial has been fixed. It consists of a square stone block, with plain iron
gnomons (metal plates which cast a shadow indicating the time of day) inserted
into the southern, eastern and western faces, surmounted by a pyramidal cap.
The sundial probably dates to the 17th century. The cross is a Listed
Building 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:
- Legacy System:
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