Ancient Monuments

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Churchyard cross 12m west of Down St Mary church tower

A Scheduled Monument in Down St. Mary, Devon

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Latitude: 50.826 / 50°49'33"N

Longitude: -3.7864 / 3°47'11"W

OS Eastings: 274275.826068

OS Northings: 104459.753473

OS Grid: SS742044

Mapcode National: GBR L3.X8L1

Mapcode Global: FRA 26YX.BPS

Entry Name: Churchyard cross 12m west of Down St Mary church tower

Scheduled Date: 15 December 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013721

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27321

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Down St. Mary

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Down St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a churchyard cross and modern socket stone standing 12m
west of Down St Mary church tower. It is one of two ancient crosses in the
churchyard, the other is situated approximately 30m to the south east.
The modern socket stone measures 0.68m square at the base, is chamfered and
octagonal above. The length of each side of the octagon is 0.32m. It is
0.31m high and thought to date to around 1900.
The cross is made from a single piece of granite; it is crudely carved and the
shaft is not straight. It is rectangular at the base. The length of the long
side north to south is 0.3m and the short side east to west is 0.2m. There are
pyramid stops above which the cross becomes octagonal. It measures 0.57m wide
at the arms, which are asymmetrical. The head is also intact and the overall
height of the cross is 1.74m.
The cross is said to have been found used as a paving stone near Bow and was
taken to St Olave's, Murchington, near Chagford, the residence of the rector
of Down St Mary. After his death it was removed to the churchyard. It was re-
erected here by the Right Reverend Bishop Kestall-Cornish when he was the
rector (1897 - 1909).
The cross is Listed Grade II.

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.

Although not in its original position, the standing cross 12m west of Down St
Mary church survives comparatively well. Parts of its history are well
documented. The cross is one of two in the churchyard.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Masson Phillips, E M, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in The Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon, Part 2, , Vol. 70, (1938), 320
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SS70SW-003, (1991)
MPP fieldwork by H. Gerrard, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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