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Medieval cross 200m north west of St Mary's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Sturminster Newton, Dorset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.9258 / 50°55'32"N

Longitude: -2.3051 / 2°18'18"W

OS Eastings: 378653.687502

OS Northings: 114082.500002

OS Grid: ST786140

Mapcode National: GBR 0X0.S1W

Mapcode Global: FRA 661N.KSX

Entry Name: Medieval cross 200m north west of St Mary's Church

Scheduled Date: 12 December 1959

Last Amended: 20 February 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013746

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27353

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Sturminster Newton

Built-Up Area: Sturminster Newton

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Sturminster Newton St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument includes the stepped base and remains of the shaft of a medieval
cross 200m north west of St Mary's Church situated at the south west corner of
the market place. At this point the main road through Sturminster Newton is
called Market Cross.
The cross base has four octagonal stone steps and the eroded stump of an
octagonal shaft. The sides of the base step measure an average of 1.45m and it
is 0.38m high. The heights of the next three steps up are 0.24m, 0.22m, and
0.16m respectively. The cross shaft survives to a height of 0.55m high. The
steps are all very worn. The cross is Listed Grade II.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

Despite the loss of most of the original shaft, the base of the standing cross
at Sturminster Newton survives in its original position within the centre of
the town and remains an important example of its class.

Source: Historic England

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