Ancient Monuments

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Cross in the churchyard of St Helen's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Burghwallis, Doncaster

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Latitude: 53.6019 / 53°36'6"N

Longitude: -1.1901 / 1°11'24"W

OS Eastings: 453693.438

OS Northings: 412011.6845

OS Grid: SE536120

Mapcode National: GBR NV4S.4J

Mapcode Global: WHDCN.PQHK

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

Scheduled Date: 6 September 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012934

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27205

County: Doncaster

Civil Parish: Burghwallis

Built-Up Area: Burghwallis

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): South Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Burghwallis St Helen

Church of England Diocese: Sheffield


The monument is located 3m south of St Helen's Church and includes the socle
and shaft of a medieval churchyard cross together with a modern cross head.
The socle or socket stone comprises a dressed octagonal sandstone block with
rounded stops on alternate faces. It measures roughly 80cm square and 25cm
high and includes a 30cm square socket hole. The 1.5m high sandstone shaft is
square with chamfered corners and includes a pedestal and capital. It is
currently fitted with a modern canopied cross head but this is believed to
have replaced an 18th or 19th century sundial which, in turn, took the place
of the missing medieval cross head. The existence of a sundial is indicated by
the stone block placed at the foot of the cross on the north side to provide a
step up to the sundial which would, otherwise, have been out of sight. The
cross is Listed Grade II. The gravestones which lie within the area of
the scheduling are not included in the scheduling. The surface of the modern
path that falls within the area of the scheduling is excluded but the ground
beneath 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 missing its original cross head, the cross in St Helen's churchyard is
a good example of a simple churchyard cross which appears to be in its
original location. Its proximity to the church suggests that it played an
important role in religious festivals during the Middle Ages though it may
alternatively have had a sepulchral function.

Source: Historic England


On EH file, Angela Shackleton Hill, Burghwallis churchyard cross, (1994)
South Yorkshire SMR, PI 297, Burghwallis churchyard cross,

Source: Historic England

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