Ancient Monuments

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Beverley sanctuary limit stone, Bentley cross

A Scheduled Monument in Rowley, East Riding of Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.8139 / 53°48'50"N

Longitude: -0.4439 / 0°26'37"W

OS Eastings: 502554.347387

OS Northings: 436414.773054

OS Grid: TA025364

Mapcode National: GBR TSBB.PK

Mapcode Global: WHGFB.4DXJ

Entry Name: Beverley sanctuary limit stone, Bentley cross

Scheduled Date: 23 February 1933

Last Amended: 15 May 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012590

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26502

County: East Riding of Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Rowley

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Riding of Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Rowley St Peter

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument is the Bentley medieval sanctuary limit cross of Beverley,
situated on the east side of the A164 to the north east of the village of
Bentley. It comprises a 70cm high, 35cm square stone shaft with a deep (12cm)
chamfer set on a rectilinear modern stone base. There may be the remains of a
very weathered inscription to the front of the cross. 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 stone no longer stands in its
original location, as it was moved from the other side of the A164 during a
road improvement scheme. The modern fence around the cross is excluded from
the scheduling, although the ground beneath it 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,
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
Bentley cross survives reasonably well and appears to retain architectural
medieval markings pertaining to its 13th century date. Although the cross no
longer stands in its original position, the preservation of the wider group of
limit stones and the Sanctuary Chair still remaining at Beverley Minster 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), 5-6

Source: Historic England

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