Ancient Monuments

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Medieval cross base known as Plague Stone, 750m WSW of High Scales

A Scheduled Monument in Aske, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.4361 / 54°26'9"N

Longitude: -1.7614 / 1°45'41"W

OS Eastings: 415570.66719

OS Northings: 504546.158149

OS Grid: NZ155045

Mapcode National: GBR JK44.GK

Mapcode Global: WHC65.XRDL

Entry Name: Medieval cross base known as Plague Stone, 750m WSW of High Scales

Scheduled Date: 23 October 1973

Last Amended: 2 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014764

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28243

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Aske

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Easby with Brompton on Swale and Bolton on Swale

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


The monument includes the socketed base for a standing cross, situated on the
brow of a hill on the road between Richmond and Ravensworth.
It consists of a rectangular stone block with a rounded upper edge and
measures 1m by 0.75m. It is set firmly in the ground with only 0.1m showing
above ground level. The socket is in the centre of the top and measures 0.45m
by 0.75m and is 0.25m deep.
The stone is located at the intersection of three parishes and the junction of
Jagger Track and the Richmond to Ravensworth road. The stone was originally
the base for a cross, supported in the socket, which would have served to mark
the boundary of the parishes. It is not known when the name Plague Stone
originated but it may refer to a tradition of placing goods at a specific
place for collection by people quarantined by the plague, or that the cross
served as a memorial for plague victims.

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

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 the cross shaft is no longer present, the base survives in its
original position. It stands at the intersection of parishes and routeways and
will contribute to the understanding of communication and administration in
the area. The name also provides insight into custom and folklore from the
medieval period onwards.

Source: Historic England


English Heritage, AM 107 Report,

Source: Historic England

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