Ancient Monuments

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Churchyard cross in St Mary's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Nether Stowey, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1501 / 51°9'0"N

Longitude: -3.1497 / 3°8'59"W

OS Eastings: 319678.047967

OS Northings: 139614.195741

OS Grid: ST196396

Mapcode National: GBR LZ.7V5D

Mapcode Global: VH6GZ.CC64

Entry Name: Churchyard cross in St Mary's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 11 March 1953

Last Amended: 3 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015452

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28817

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Nether Stowey

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a socket stone and part of the shaft of a cross resting
on a stone slab and circular earth mound, situated in St Mary's churchyard,
Nether Stowey, c.10m south of the church porch. The earth mound is 5m in
diameter and 0.5m high. In the centre of this is the stone slab 1m square. The
socket stone, which rests on the stone slab, is octagonal with a heavy
weather-drip around the top. It is 0.9m across and 0.6m high; each face of the
octagon is 0.35m length. In the centre of the socket stone is a socket 0.35m
square in which sits the broken shaft which is 0.2m high. The cross is Listed
Grade II.
The earth mound is so pronounced that it is thought probable that it covers
the calvary of the cross. Probing suggests that there is stone lying c.0.2m
under the surface of the mound. The cross is considered to be late 14th

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
Nether Stowey survives well in what is likely to be its original location. The
medieval cross relates to the church of St Mary, which has medieval origins,
but was rebuilt in 1849-51. This is one of two crosses in the village, the
other being a market cross in the market place.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 104-105

Source: Historic England

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