Ancient Monuments

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Churchyard cross in St Lawrence's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Didmarton, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.5857 / 51°35'8"N

Longitude: -2.2577 / 2°15'27"W

OS Eastings: 382238.631789

OS Northings: 187458.168875

OS Grid: ST822874

Mapcode National: GBR 1PG.D1X

Mapcode Global: VH95P.TD9R

Entry Name: Churchyard cross in St Lawrence's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 3 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015425

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28530

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: Didmarton

Built-Up Area: Didmarton

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: Didmarton St Lawrence

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester


The monument includes a restored cross situated in St Lawrence's churchyard,
Didmarton some 6m north of the church.
The cross, which is Listed Grade II, has a square base above which is a square
plinth, a socket stone, and a broken shaft. The base is 1.42m long and 0.3m
high. Above this the square socket stone sits on a small plinth 0.94m long and
0.19m high. The socket stone has broaches at its angles, forming an octagonal
top. It is 0.75m wide and 0.38m high. The broaches are now very worn, but are
carved in the form of four half figures, which are thought to represent the
four Evangelists. The broken octagonal shaft is 0.85m high and tapers
slightly. The octagonal base of the shaft fits into the square socket with the
aid of lead braces and mortared infill. The Rev E J Everard, who went to the
parish as incumbent in 1842, found that the whole of the base of the cross and
part of the shaft were invisible under an accumulation of earth. Having
disinterred the whole, he had the cross raised on two steps of stone set
diagonally. Thus the ancient part of the cross ends with the basement figures,
and is considered to be 14th century.

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 shaft having been broken, the standing cross in the churchyard at
Didmarton survives well in what is likely to be its original location. It has
the unusual feature of four half figures, supposedly the four Evangelists,
carved on alternate faces of the socket stone. The medieval cross relates to
the church which, because of the construction of a new Victorian church in the
village, is a good example of a medieval church in its 18th century condition.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds, (1970), 210
Pooley, C, Notes on the Old Crosses of Gloucestershire, (1868), 57

Source: Historic England

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