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Churchyard cross at St Mary's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Bitterley, Shropshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.392 / 52°23'31"N

Longitude: -2.632 / 2°37'55"W

OS Eastings: 357087.639002

OS Northings: 277293.073999

OS Grid: SO570772

Mapcode National: GBR BP.QGQ3

Mapcode Global: VH845.B4FN

Entry Name: Churchyard cross at St Mary's Church

Scheduled Date: 28 July 1960

Last Amended: 13 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014902

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27536

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Bitterley

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Bitterley with Middleton

Church of England Diocese: Hereford

Details

The monument includes a standing stone cross, situated c.12m south east of the
south porch of St Mary's Church, Bitterley. The cross is of grey limestone, of
14th century date, and is Listed Grade I. It includes a stepped base, socket
stone, and shaft with decorated head.
The base includes four hexagonal steps, measuring 1.75m diameter at the base
and 1.1m overall in height. The socket stone is 0.5m high and 0.7m square, and
its corners are chamfered above moulded stops, rising to an octagonal top with
chamfered edges. The shaft is octagonal in section, 0.3m diameter at the base,
and retains its lead sinkings. It is pierced near the base by a hole running
north-south, and tapers to a decorated top which supports an elaborate lantern
head. This consists of four ogee-headed niches under gabled canopies, each
containing sculptured figures, now rather weathered. The wider niches face to
east and west, the west facing one containing the Crucifixion and its opposite
possibly the Virgin and Child. The overall height of the cross is
approximately 4.8m.
The grave markers to the north west and east of the cross are excluded from
the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

The cross in St Mary's churchyard is a well preserved example of a medieval
churchyard cross with stepped base and lantern head, considered to be one of
the finest in the country. It is believed to stand in its original position,
and limited development in the area immediately surrounding the cross suggests
that archaeological deposits relating to the monument's construction and use
in this location are likely to survive intact. Its good condition and unusual
decoration enhance the attractiveness of the cross as a public monument and
amenity.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
DOE, Buildings of Special Hist & Arch Interest,
Snowdon, Kay, FMW report, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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