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Sandbach Anglo-Saxon crosses

A Scheduled Monument in Sandbach, Cheshire East

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Latitude: 53.144 / 53°8'38"N

Longitude: -2.3621 / 2°21'43"W

OS Eastings: 375878.218552

OS Northings: 360826.195877

OS Grid: SJ758608

Mapcode National: GBR 010.X73

Mapcode Global: WH9B0.P7DK

Entry Name: Sandbach Anglo-Saxon crosses

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1925

Last Amended: 26 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011144

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23637

County: Cheshire East

Civil Parish: Sandbach

Built-Up Area: Sandbach

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Sandbach

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes a pair of lavishly decorated Anglo-Saxon crosses
situated in Sandbach Market Square which can be dated on the basis of their
animal and foliate ornament to the first half of the ninth century AD. The
stone shafts of the crosses are each firmly fixed in a stone base and stand
together on a later rectangular stone platform which is itself raised on two
steps. At each corner of this platform are smaller stone posts which were
also once ornamented but are now much eroded.
The prodigious amount of figural ornament featured on the two crosses has
generated antiquarian and archaeological interest for well over a century.
The larger, north cross, has scenes depicting Christ's progress to Calvary,
and an Annunciation to the Virgin, as well as depictions of the Crucifixion,
the Adoration of the Magi and the Nativity, and the Transfiguration of Christ
on Mount Tabor. It is 5m high and the 4.8m carved shaft is topped by part of
what was originally a circular cross-head.
The figural decoration of the smaller, south cross-shaft is also extensive
but, in contrast to the north cross, there is little in the way of narrative
figural ornament. Programmes of small framed figures fill the north and south
sides of the shaft and an arrangement of figures, animals and foliate ornament
fills the east face. Only the carving on the west face has been thought to
depict a narrative event. This was originally thought to be a representation
of the Final Resurrection; more recently this has been re-interpreted to
include a variety of scenes including another Transfiguration, an Adoration of
the Virgin and Child, and possibly an Adoration of Christ. This cross is 3.6m
high overall; the 3.2m shaft is also topped by part of a circular cross-head.
This cross head appears too slight to have been part of the original
structure; it may, therefore, be the only recognised fragment of a third
It has been suggested that the two crosses were erected to commemorate the
introduction of Christianity to Mercia by Peada, son of King Penda of Mercia,
in AD 643. They were carved at an important workshop at or near Sandbach.
Craftsmen from this workshop may also have produced the other fragments of
Anglo-Saxon sculpture found in the present churchyard. This workshop may have
been attached to a monastic establishment and supports the suggestion that the
town was the site of a Saxon minster. The original setting for the crosses is
unknown. They were standing in the reign of Elizabeth I but in the 17th
century the central part of the north cross and some fragments of the smaller
south cross were taken by Sir James Crewe to Utkinton and erected there. After
his death they were moved to Tarporley and then to Oulton Park. In 1816 they
were re-erected in Sandbach. The monument is in the care of the Secretary of
State and is Listed Grade I.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern stone bollards and chains
surrounding the monument, the information plaques and all electric lighting
situated at the foot of the modern bollards but the ground beneath all these
features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of
locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found
throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving
examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses
were also used for similar purposes. High crosses have shafts supporting
carved cross-heads. They may be set within a carved sockle or stone base. The
cross heads were frequently small, the broad cross shaft being the main
feature of the cross. They were erected in a variety of locations and appear
to have served a number of functions. Some are associated with established
churches and monasteries and may mark burial places, focal points used in
religious services or the boundaries of ecclesiastical land-holdings. Others
may have marked route-ways or gathering points for local communities. All
examples tend to be heavily decorated, the patterns and ornament drawing
on the wider artistic traditions of the time. Patterns, especially those
including interlaced strands, are common, some depicted as 'vine-scrolls',
tendrils of growth of the grape vine, sometimes complete with leaves. On the
most developed examples this 'vine-scroll' is shown to be inhabited by a
variety of birds and animals. Panels depicting figures and animals are also
commonly found; on occasion these depict Biblical scenes or personages. This
carved ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours although traces
of these colourings now survive only rarely.
The earliest examples were created and erected by native inhabitants; later
examples are heavily influenced by Viking art styles and mythology, and their
creation can be related to the Viking infiltration and settlement of the north
of England. Several distinct regional groupings and types have been
identified, some being the product of single 'schools' of craftsmen.
There are fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England. This is likely to
represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were
defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm in the late medieval period.
Others fell out of use and were taken down and re-used in new building works.
They provide an important insight into art traditions and changing art styles.
The figured panels provide information on religious beliefs. The Viking period
stones contribute to studies of the impact of the Scandinavian newcomers into
the north of England. All well preserved examples of high crosses will be
identified as nationally important.
Sandbach high crosses are regarded as amongst the finest surviving examples of
Saxon crosses in the country.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Earwaker, J P, A History of the Ancient Crosses of Sandbach, Cheshire, (1890), 1-12
Earwaker, J P, A History of the Ancient Crosses of Sandbach, Cheshire, (1890), 1-12
Bailey, R, 'The 113th Annual Meeting of the Cambrian Archaeological Assocn' in The Sandbach Crosses, (1966), 14-16
Hawkes, J, 'Isles of the North: Early Medival Art in Ireland and Britain' in A Question of Judgement: The Iconic Programme at Sandbach, (1995), 213-219
Ormerod, G, 'History of Cheshire' in History of Cheshire, (1882), 98-99
Ormerod, G, 'History of Cheshire' in History of Cheshire, (1882), 98-9
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Sandbach Parish File,
SMR No. 1109/0/1, Cheshire SMR, Sandbach Crosses, (1987)
SMR No. 1109/0/1, Cheshire SMR, Sandbach Crosses, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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