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Beverley sanctuary limit stone, Bishop Burton cross

A Scheduled Monument in Bishop Burton, East Riding of Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.8437 / 53°50'37"N

Longitude: -0.4733 / 0°28'23"W

OS Eastings: 500547.032719

OS Northings: 439681.646079

OS Grid: TA005396

Mapcode National: GBR TR4Z.BW

Mapcode Global: WHGF3.PNT7

Entry Name: Beverley sanctuary limit stone, Bishop Burton cross

Scheduled Date: 23 February 1933

Last Amended: 15 May 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012589

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26501

County: East Riding of Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Bishop Burton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Riding of Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Bishop Burton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument is the Bishop Burton medieval sanctuary limit cross of Beverley.
Indications are that the cross stands in its original position. It is one of
four original stones marking the limit of the Liberty and Sanctuary of
Beverley Minster, of which now only three remain. The cross comprises a 2m
high surviving limestone shaft set upon a metre square stone base with
bevelled shoulders, and it has engaged shafts and semi-rounded corners which
each bear a single vertical grooved line. The monument formerly bore the
inscription `rate pro anima magistri villielmi de walthon' (pray for the soul
of William of Walthon). It is located about 10m inside a field, beyond a
boundary hedge along the south side of the A1035, between the village
of Killingwoldgraves and the Beverley race course, and is surrounded by a
wooden fence. The surrounding fence is excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath is included.
The idea that churches could offer sanctuary dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.
Criminals, including murderers, could invoke the protection of the church and
thereby seek pardon for their misdemeanours. At Beverley, the four original
stones marked the outer limit of the sanctuary area. If a pursuer caught his
quarry inside this outer ring he had to pay a `hundreth' (eight pounds) to the
church authorities for the violation of sanctuary. The fines to be paid rose
at the violation of the five inner boundaries (located at the town edge). The
fugitive finally had to cross the churchyard boundary to reach the church
itself, where only very wealthy pursuers could afford the ninety six pounds
fine incurred if they apprehended the felon at the church door. The sum rose
to one hundred and forty four pounds if the felon had reached the choir of
the church, whilst a pursuer who took a felon at the altar might forfeit his
own life. Once criminals had gained such sanctuary, they were allowed to stay
for 30 days during which time they sought pardon. If this was not secured,
they were escorted out of the sanctuary area at the end of the period.
Beverley was one of several great churches in the north known as sanctuary
refuges, others being Ripon, Hexham, York and Durham. At the latter two,
sanctuary began only at the church door.

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.

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 worthy of protection.

Despite post Elizabethan damage, including the loss of the cross head, the
Bishop Burton cross survives reasonably well and still retains architectural
medieval decoration pertaining to its 13th century date. Indications are that
the cross stands in its original position and will therefore preserve
archaeological information on its original setting, and contribute to an
understanding of its original function. The preservation of the limit stones
and the Sanctuary Chair still remaining at Beverley is unusual and increases
the archaeological and historical value of the monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Kirby, R M, Sanctuary: Beverley - A Town of Refuge, (1982), 7-8

Source: Historic England

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