Ancient Monuments

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Standing cross at the Church of St Mary

A Scheduled Monument in Ecclesfield, Sheffield

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Latitude: 53.4433 / 53°26'35"N

Longitude: -1.47 / 1°28'11"W

OS Eastings: 435302.195178

OS Northings: 394190.041203

OS Grid: SK353941

Mapcode National: GBR LX5M.KD

Mapcode Global: WHDD9.DQ75

Entry Name: Standing cross at the Church of St Mary

Scheduled Date: 12 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012879

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23389

County: Sheffield

Civil Parish: Ecclesfield

Built-Up Area: Sheffield

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): South Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Ecclesfield St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Sheffield


The monument is a medieval or early post-medieval standing cross located in
the churchyard south of St Mary's Church, Ecclesfield. It includes a stepped
base or calvary surmounted by a socket stone or socle and the stump of the
original cross shaft. The upper part of the shaft, together with the cross
head, is missing and its place taken by a 19th century sundial.
The calvary comprises two square steps with an overall diameter of 2.1m and a
combined height of 75cm. The socle is 25cm high and has a diameter of 50cm. It
is octagonal with a chamfered rim and rounded stops on alternate faces. The
surviving portion of the cross shaft is 55cm high and is square sectioned with
chamfered corners that close towards the base to provide a square pedestal.
The sundial above is 50cm high and dressed to match the cross shaft but
includes, at the top, a separate moulded capital which has incised decoration
on all four faces and an intact gnomon. Falling within the area of the
scheduling are a number of 19th century grave slabs. These are excluded from
the scheduling though the ground underneath 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.

Though in fairly poor repair and missing its cross head, the cross in St
Mary's churchyard is a good example of a simple standing cross which appears
to be in its original location. Its churchyard setting suggests that it played
an important role in religious festivals though it may alternatively have had
a sepulchral function.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Gatty, Reverend A, A Life at One Living, (1884), 150-1
Hill, Angela Shackleton, (1994)
PI 174,

Source: Historic England

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