Ancient Monuments

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Lord Dacre's Cross or Towton Cross on the west side of the B1217, 1km south west of Towton

A Scheduled Monument in Saxton with Scarthingwell, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.8417 / 53°50'30"N

Longitude: -1.2751 / 1°16'30"W

OS Eastings: 447795.8575

OS Northings: 438626.662

OS Grid: SE477386

Mapcode National: GBR MSJ0.RL

Mapcode Global: WHDBG.DP1R

Entry Name: Lord Dacre's Cross or Towton Cross on the west side of the B1217, 1km south west of Towton

Scheduled Date: 23 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011967

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25665

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Saxton with Scarthingwell

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Saxton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes a high cross erected beside the B1217 road from Towton
village to Garforth. The cross was erected on this site to commemorate the
Battle of Towton, a decisive engagement during the Wars of the Roses. The
battle was fought in 1461 and this gives a date for its erection.
The cross consists of a cross-head, a medieval stone base and a modern shaft.
The base is set in a modern concrete plinth and a plaque is affixed to the
plinth on the north side reading "Battle of Towton 1461".
The base is of yellow fine-grained York stone. It stands 0.4m high and
measures 0.69m by 0.69m at the bottom and tapers to 0.53m by 0.53m at the top
edge. The shoulders of the base are chamfered for 0.16m. The shaft, a modern
addition, is cut from the same stone standing 1.7m from the base to the
projecting shoulder of the wheelheaded cross. It measures 0.35m by 0.28m at
the base and tapers to 0.25m by 0.21m at the head. The head is 0.62m high and
is in the form of a Maltese cross set in a wheelhead, with the arms of the
cross projecting 0.08m from the edge of the wheel. There is also a projecting
shoulder below the head. The top of the cross is fractured away. The base has
an inscription, cut later in the history of the monument, "Battle of Towton
Palm Sunday 1461".
The cross stands 5m to the west of the B1217 road and a droveway runs beside
it heading west. This has a metalled surface.
The shaft was inserted in the base and the cross restored with its concrete
plinth by Mr J R Ogden in 1929. It is also Listed Grade II.
The cross and the plinth are included in the scheduling. The surface of the
adjacent track is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it
is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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 and some stone crosses display evidence of
carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this
tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be
either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within
dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently
small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross.
High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with
established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services,
some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes
or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration
of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and
interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the
rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved
ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these
pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and
erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church,
but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the
art styles and mythology of Viking settlers.
Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been
identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are
fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to
represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were
defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th
centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new
building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and
changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs
during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the
north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally

The Towton cross is an important commemorative cross. It survives well and has
been sensitively restored on its original site. The original carving is
elegant and has a 15th century style which is related to the church buildings
of this period. It serves as a reminder of the piety expected of the medieval
traveller, standing beside a main road. It also gives insight into the late
medieval importance attached to the Battle of Towton.

Source: Historic England


North York Moors National Park S.M.R., (1994)

Source: Historic England

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