Ancient Monuments

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Standing cross in the churchyard of the Church of the Holy Cross at Woodchurch

A Scheduled Monument in Upton, Wirral

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Latitude: 53.3733 / 53°22'23"N

Longitude: -3.0899 / 3°5'23"W

OS Eastings: 327584.217568

OS Northings: 386825.07

OS Grid: SJ275868

Mapcode National: GBR 6YVF.VH

Mapcode Global: WH767.HGVT

Entry Name: Standing cross in the churchyard of the Church of the Holy Cross at Woodchurch

Scheduled Date: 22 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015601

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27606

County: Wirral

Electoral Ward/Division: Upton

Built-Up Area: Birkenhead

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: Woodchurch Holy Cross

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes a standing cross 8m south of the south wall of the
chancel of the parish church at Woodchurch. It consists of two steps and a
cross base carved from a single block of local sandstone. Let into the base
block is the shaft of a sundial and a modern crosshead has been attached to
this shaft to convert it into a high cross to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen
The two steps measure 1.97m by 1.9m by 0.15m above the ground and 1.47m by
1.45m by 0.25m high respectively. The base block measures 0.65m by 0.65m and
stands 0.34m high. These features are medieval and show appropriate signs of
wear on the top surfaces of the steps. The sundial shaft is a single block of
sandstone tapering towards the top from 0.32m by 0.32m to 0.25m by 0.25m. The
edges of this shaft are deeply chamfered and rise out of the square socket
hole with a small shoulder foliate decoration. This section would date from
the early 16th century. The simple wheel headed cross with the inscription to
Queen Victoria dates from 1887. The inscription indicates that the cross was
formed from a sundial; `I used to tell the hours of the life that passeth away
but now I point to that which is eternal.'
The cross is in its original position and its conversion to a sundial may have
saved at least part of the original shaft as well as the base at the time of
the iconoclasm of the Reformation.
Grave slabs to the south and west of the cross are not included in the
scheduling but the ground beneath is included.

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 standing cross in the churchyard at Woodchurch is an unusual survival of
both the shaft and base with its steps in this region.

Source: Historic England

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