Cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Decuman


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020919

Date first listed: 12-Mar-2003


Ordnance survey map of Cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Decuman
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: West Somerset (District Authority)

Parish: Watchet

National Grid Reference: ST 06493 42684


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 medieval cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Decuman remains largely intact in what is believed to be its original position in the graveyard. The original cross head has been removed (probably during the time of Oliver Cromwell) and has more recently been replaced.


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


The monument includes a medieval cross situated immediately east of the south porch in the churchyard of St Decuman's parish church on the south western edge of Watchet. The cross comprises an octagonal three-stepped base, a socket stone, and part of a tapering shaft. The sides of the three base steps, from the lower step upwards, are 1.25m, 1m, and 0.8m long respectively and each step has an overhanging dripmould. The socket stone is 0.9 sq m and 0.6m high with the upper corners chamfered; it has a surviving length of 2m of original shaft set into it. The shaft is topped with a wooden cross which is a modern mid-20th century addition. The cross dates from the 14th or 15th century and stands in the graveyard of the church which can trace its history from at least 1310 and possibly even earlier. The cross is Listed Grade II*. The modern wooden cross which is attached to the original length of shaft and all gravestones which fall within the cross's 1m protective margin are excluded from the scheduling, 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: 35586

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 90
Tom Harrington, Church Warden, (2002)

End of official listing