Cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Decuman
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 29-Feb-2020 at 14:03:19.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- West Somerset (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- ST 06493 42684
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.
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 90
Tom Harrington, Church Warden, (2002)
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