Ancient Monuments

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Cross base in the churchyard of St Mary's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Disley, Cheshire East

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Latitude: 53.3573 / 53°21'26"N

Longitude: -2.0398 / 2°2'23"W

OS Eastings: 397444.481425

OS Northings: 384495.344572

OS Grid: SJ974844

Mapcode National: GBR GY6M.56

Mapcode Global: WHBB4.MWV2

Entry Name: Cross base in the churchyard of St Mary's Church

Scheduled Date: 5 October 1959

Last Amended: 17 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012882

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25631

County: Cheshire East

Civil Parish: Disley

Built-Up Area: New Mills

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Disley St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes a Grade II Listed cross base for two standing crosses in
the churchyard of St Mary's Church at Disley. It lies under the wall of the
Leigh burial ground 11m south east of the west gate of the churchyard. A path
of stone setts runs along the north side of the cross base.

The cross base comprises a single rectangular block of local sandstone with
two socket holes for the accommodation of two cross shafts which no longer
survive. It is orientated east to west. The cross base measures 1.85m in
length and is 0.87m wide at the eastern end and 1.07m wide at the western end.
It varies in height from 0.34m at the eastern end to 0.23m at the western end.

Two socket holes set 0.21m apart are located 0.22m from the eastern edge and
0.2m from the western edge. The eastern socket is 0.51m in diameter and the
western 0.62m in diameter. The sockets are bevelled inwards with the eastern
socket tapering to 0.48m in diameter and the western to 0.56m.
There is a shallow channel cut into the stone between the holes and a shallow
channel filled with lead cut from the western edge of the western hole to the
edge of the block.

The cross base was found in 1958 by workmen digging for a drain in the field
immediately to the south of the church very close to the place where two other
crosses, now removed to Lyme Hall, were found in 1848. An early font bowl was
also discovered at the same site during the 1958 diggings. This now rests
close to the west porch of the church beside the path to the north and is not
included in the scheduling.

The stone path to the north of the cross base and any gravestones are not
included in the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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 cross base at Disley is an example of a rare archaeological feature.
Although the two crosses which used to stand in the socket holes are missing,
the double socket is almost unknown elsewhere in the country. The base block
has survived well and is relatively unworn. Double crosses also exist at
Marple (Robin Hood's Picking Rods) and at Lyme Handley (The Bow Stones).

The round shafted crosses which used to occupy the slots were of a type
attributed to the northern part of the kingdom of Mercia and date to the tenth
century. The cross base is almost certainly close to its original position and
should be regarded as part of a regional group set on the slopes of the hills
above the Cheshire Plain.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Rosser, CEP, 'Trans Lancs and Cheshire Arch Soc' in Trans Lancs and Cheshire Arch Soc, , Vol. Vol 68, (1958), 142

Source: Historic England

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