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Remains of medieval standing cross adjacent to St Mary's Church, Almer

A Scheduled Monument in Sturminster Marshall, Dorset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.7898 / 50°47'23"N

Longitude: -2.1245 / 2°7'28"W

OS Eastings: 391323.036001

OS Northings: 98921.005001

OS Grid: SY913989

Mapcode National: GBR 209.HNX

Mapcode Global: FRA 67F0.B4F

Entry Name: Remains of medieval standing cross adjacent to St Mary's Church, Almer

Scheduled Date: 17 July 1961

Last Amended: 1 August 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014759

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27382

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Sturminster Marshall

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Almer and Charborough St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument includes the remains of a stone cross of early 15th century date,
which is listed Grade II, adjacent to the south east wall of the Church of St
Mary's, Almer. The cross has a stone base and socket stone and the remains of
a stone shaft. The base stone is chamfered, 0.95m square and up to 0.2m deep.
The socket stone is 0.75m square with moulded corners and 0.4m high. The shaft
which is octagonal and tapering, is square at the base, each side of which is
0.32m. The shaft is broken at the top and survives to a height of 1.3m. An
iron notice near the base of the cross records that the cross was moved from
the southern side of Almer Manor in 1933. The remains of a font and the iron
notice are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features is included.

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 being incomplete and removed from its original position, the remains
of the standing cross adjacent to the south east side of St Mary's Church,
Almer, is an important example of its class, retaining those distinctive
elements which identify it as 15th century.

Source: Historic England

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