Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Standing cross 240m north west of Holly Hill Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Iron Acton, South Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.5492 / 51°32'57"N

Longitude: -2.4618 / 2°27'42"W

OS Eastings: 368074.626822

OS Northings: 183466.665

OS Grid: ST680834

Mapcode National: GBR JX.FMGH

Mapcode Global: VH88B.8BX7

Entry Name: Standing cross 240m north west of Holly Hill Farm

Scheduled Date: 19 May 1952

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007016

English Heritage Legacy ID: SG 112

County: South Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Iron Acton

Built-Up Area: Iron Acton

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Iron Acton

Church of England Diocese: Bristol


The monument includes a standing cross, situated in the churchyard to the north of the parish church of St James the Less, in the settlement of Iron Acton. The standing or preaching cross survives as a free-standing and rather elaborate stone-built structure with two octagonal steps supporting an octagonal plinth with four corner buttressed columns beneath an arched decorated canopy, above which is a decorated shaft. The decorated canopy has eight shields and emblems of the Passion and the Poyats of Acton impaling Fitz-Nichol which attests to its 15th century origin. The head is missing. Between the columns on three sides are pierced tracery panels which make this a striking and ornate structure. It was erected by Sir Robert Poyntz. The preaching cross was the subject of sympathetic restoration in 1986.

Sources: PastScape 201568
South Gloucestershire HER 1494

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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 important because they have survived despite past religious upheaval. The standing cross 240m north west of Holly Hill Farm is a fine example of the rare preaching cross type and retains many original features and much of its decoration. It will also retain archaeological and environmental information relating to its construction, maintenance, decorative style, the technological and engineering abilities of the designers and builders and its overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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