Ancient Monuments

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Market Cross

A Scheduled Monument in Leek, Staffordshire

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Latitude: 53.1061 / 53°6'21"N

Longitude: -2.0255 / 2°1'31"W

OS Eastings: 398390.156

OS Northings: 356544.375

OS Grid: SJ983565

Mapcode National: GBR 24P.BQC

Mapcode Global: WHBCH.V6N4

Entry Name: Market Cross

Scheduled Date: 24 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012658

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21608

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Leek

Built-Up Area: Leek

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Leek St Edward the Confessor

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes the Market Cross, a standing stone cross located in the
southern part of the marketplace in the town of Leek. The cross is Listed
Grade II and includes a 19th century plinth, and a socket-stone, shaft and
head, which are post medieval in date.
The plinth is cross-shaped in plan and dates from the 19th century restoration
of the cross when it was moved from its original position in the town centre
to Leek cemetery. In 1986 the cross was returned to the town centre and
erected in a different location within the marketplace. The socket-stone rests
on the central part of the plinth and has a circular section with a scalloped
decoration around its base. Set into the middle of the socket-stone is the
shaft, square in section and fluted on all four sides. The shaft tapers
upwards to a knop; above which, is the cross-head. The head takes the form of
a crucifix with a raised central boss on the north and south faces. During the
19th century the name `JOLIFFE' (the family name of the Lords of Leek during
the 16th century) was visible on one arm of the cross-head. The shaft and the
head, together, stand approximately 3.6m high.
The modern paving around the cross and the street furniture are excluded from
the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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

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.

The market cross in Leek is a good example of a post-medieval standing cross
with an ornamental socket-stone and a complete cross-head. While much of the
cross survives from post-medieval times, subsequent restoration has ensured
that the historical context of the cross as a focal point and public amenity
within Leek town centre has continued to the present day.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Sleigh, J, The History of Leek, (1862), 28

Source: Historic England

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