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.
Although the original cross head has been removed, the cross in the
churchyard of St Mary's Church remains a good example of a medieval cross
which is believed to stand in its original location. Limited activity
immediately surrounding the cross indicates that archaeological deposits
relating to the monument's construction and use are likely to survive
The monument includes a medieval cross which is located close to the south
porch of St Mary's Church at Churchtown. Constructed from red sandstone,
the remains of the original 13th or 14th century cross comprise a partly
buried foundation plinth, a socket stone and the lower part of the shaft.
The socket stone is octagonal in plan, 0.9m across, 0.2m in height and is
set directly onto the plinth. It supports a shaft which is 0.36 sq m at
its base and has deeply incised angles which form columns with incised
posts for the 1.6m length of shaft. There is evidence of some form of
sculptural decoration on the upper surviving section of the shaft which
has been interpreted as a figure in a crocketed niche standing on a
corbel. The cross is Listed Grade II.
St Mary's Church can trace its history back to at least the 14th century
but is believed to have earlier origins.
The surface of the footpath which lies adjacent to the north side of the
cross is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is
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.