Ancient Monuments

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Churchyard cross in St Mary the Virgin's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in North Petherton, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.0924 / 51°5'32"N

Longitude: -3.0148 / 3°0'53"W

OS Eastings: 329027.055161

OS Northings: 133052.226342

OS Grid: ST290330

Mapcode National: GBR M5.CD1J

Mapcode Global: FRA 46K7.K95

Entry Name: Churchyard cross in St Mary the Virgin's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 22 December 1976

Last Amended: 2 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015455

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28820

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: North Petherton

Built-Up Area: North Petherton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a restored cross built into the south facing slope of
the churchyard at North Petherton, c.22m north of the church of St Mary the
The cross, which is Listed Grade II*, has an octagonal two step calvary,
pedestal and socket stone. The first step of the calvary is 3.2m in diameter
and 0.7m high. The second step is 2.3m in diameter and 0.5m high. Above this
is the octagonal pedestal 1.5m across and 0.3m high, and on it sits the square
base of the socket stone. The socket stone has attached shafts at all its
angles, except the north west, where the shaft is missing. There is additional
decoration in the form of quatrefoils on each face of the socket stone. The
top of the stone is octagonal. It is 1.5m wide and 0.7m high, with a socket
0.4m square in its upper face. The socket is lead lined containing the remains
of a shaft cut flush with the top of the socket stone.
The calvary is constructed from Ham Stone blocks. The socket stone is hewn
from one piece of Ham Stone. These all have the appearance of great age, and
the cross is considered to be 15th century. Contemporary records show that in
1877 the shaft was still present and tapered to a height of c.2m. The remains
of the shaft were removed in 1962, being considered unsafe. It is believed
there is stone at a depth of c.0.2m under the surface surrounding the cross,
and to a width of 0.8m from the calvary base. This may suggest further calvary
stones around the cross.

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 shaft and head of the cross are missing, the standing cross in
the churchyard at North Petherton is an impressive monument of the medieval
period. It survives well in what is likely to be its original location. The
medieval cross relates to the medieval church of St Mary The Virgin.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 173

Source: Historic England

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