Ancient Monuments

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Cross shaft in the churchyard of St Peter's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Prestbury, Cheshire East

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Latitude: 53.2891 / 53°17'20"N

Longitude: -2.1502 / 2°9'0"W

OS Eastings: 390085.857575

OS Northings: 376909.96489

OS Grid: SJ900769

Mapcode National: GBR FZFD.9P

Mapcode Global: WHBBG.YL8D

Entry Name: Cross shaft in the churchyard of St Peter's Church

Scheduled Date: 27 July 1950

Last Amended: 18 October 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012883

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25632

County: Cheshire East

Civil Parish: Prestbury

Built-Up Area: Macclesfield

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Prestbury St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument comprises three fragments of sculptured stone cemented together,
set up in a glass case in the churchyard. It stands at a junction of two
flagged paths on a flagged base at a point 12m south of the south east corner
of the chancel of St Peter's Church. There is an Anglo-Norman chapel 20m to
the south of the present site of the cross.
The structure stands 0.92m high on a modern sandstone plinth which is 0.29m
high. There are three fragments cemented together of which the bottom two are
pieces of the same cross shaft matching at the joint. The third piece is a
fragment of a second cross, deriving from a point just below a circular head.
The fragments in order from the base can be described as follows: the bottom
segment measures 0.35m high and 0.27m by 0.43m at the base and tapers to 0.23m
by 0.49m at the joint. It has a simple and damaged roll moulding along each
upright corner and is decorated with interlace carving on each face. The
middle section measures 0.33m high and tapers to 0.21m by 0.34m at the top.
Again there are roll mouldings and interlace carved faces which match up with
the carving of the fragment below. The carving is worn and damaged. The top
section is wider, measures 0.4m across the west face and is 0.11m thick. The
decoration on this fragment is of the same period of interlace as the other
pieces but is not as well executed.
The whole has been set up in a glass box with aluminium corners on a plinth of
sandstone which supports the modern sandstone base of the monument. There are
two bronze plates with explanatory text attached to the base inside this box.
The cross fragments were found during restoration work on the church fabric in
The monument stands amongst the oldest graves in this part of the original
churchyard. Associated with it are a number of fragments of medieval stonework
found during various restorations of the church. These do not form part of the
monument. To the south is a fine late Anglo-Norman chapel built of a similar
stone to that of the standing cross fragments. This does not form part of this
monument. The cross fragments of the monument are an indication of previous
Christian worship on this site and date to the ninth or tenth centuries at the
The modern plinth and the glass case which encloses the monument are included
in the scheduling. The flagged path and tombstones are excluded, although the
ground beneath them is included.

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

High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of
locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found
throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving
examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses
were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of
carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this
tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be
either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within
dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently
small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross.
High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with
established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services,
some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes
or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration
of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and
interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the
rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved
ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these
pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and
erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church,
but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the
art styles and mythology of Viking settlers.
Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been
identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are
fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to
represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were
defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th
centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new
building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and
changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs
during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the
north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally

The high cross in the churchyard at Prestbury is of a type uncommon in the
immediate area. It is an interlaced carved cross shaft of a type associated
with Anglian Christian settlement and is probably the product of a monastic
school of sculpture. Similar carved monuments exist in churches in the western
part of the county and also in the area of Bakewell in Derbyshire and the
valley of the Derwent.
The fragment of a cross head which is the upper stone of this reconstruction
shows that it was originally a wheelhead cross. There is not enough of it to
classify it by type or regional school.
The monument provides the only physical indication of a Christian place of
worship before the building of the Anglo-Norman chapel which lies to the south
of the present church.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Richards, R, Old Cheshire Churches, (1947), 280-85

Source: Historic England

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