Ancient Monuments

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Churchyard cross in St Mary's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Lansdown, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.9015 / 51°54'5"N

Longitude: -2.0762 / 2°4'34"W

OS Eastings: 394855.283

OS Northings: 222555.596

OS Grid: SO948225

Mapcode National: GBR 2M4.PXB

Mapcode Global: VH947.YGSN

Entry Name: Churchyard cross in St Mary's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 24 December 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015389

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28810

County: Gloucestershire

Electoral Ward/Division: Lansdown

Built-Up Area: Cheltenham

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Cheltenham, St Mary with St Matthew

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester


The monument includes a cross situated in St Mary's churchyard in Cheltenham
c.12m north east of the church.
The cross has a square four step calvary, a socket stone and shaft. The first
step of the calvary is 3.6m wide and 0.15m high; the second step is 3m wide
and 0.3m high, the third and fourth steps are 2.4m, 1.75m long respectively
and are both 0.25m high. Above the calvary is the socket stone which has a
square base with convex broaches at its angles, forming an octagonal top with
drip moulding. It is 1.1m wide and 1.15m high with a socket 0.45m square. The
broken shaft is c.2m high and is square at the bottom and tapers, becoming
octagonal in section.
The calvary is constructed from stone blocks. The socket stone is hewn from
one piece of stone and the whole structure has the appearance of great age.
The socket appears to be too big for the base of the shaft which has been
cemented into position. The cross is considered to be 14th century and 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.

The standing cross in St Mary's churchyard, Cheltenham, survives well with
many of its original elements intact in what is likely to be its original
location. The medieval cross relates to the 14th century church which is the
parish church and the only medieval church in Cheltenham.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, (1868), 68
Pooley, C, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, (1868), 69

Source: Historic England

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