Ancient Monuments

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Churchyard cross in St Mary the Virgin's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire,

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Latitude: 51.9138 / 51°54'49"N

Longitude: -2.5852 / 2°35'6"W

OS Eastings: 359841.036

OS Northings: 224082.019

OS Grid: SO598240

Mapcode National: GBR FR.PPC3

Mapcode Global: VH86J.45N6

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

Scheduled Date: 24 September 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016128

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29849

County: Herefordshire,

Civil Parish: Ross-on-Wye

Built-Up Area: Ross-on-Wye

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Ross

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes a standing stone cross located within the churchyard of
St Mary the Virgin's Church, approximately 42m to the north east of the
church. The cross is medieval in origin with later additions. It includes a
base of three steps and a socket stone, the shaft, the knop and the head.

The steps are octagonal in plan and constructed from large rectangular
sandstone blocks. The bottom step is made up of 15 stones; it measures 2.75m
in diameter by 0.26m in height. The middle step incorporates ten stones,
has a diameter of 2.1m and is also 0.26m high; the top step incorporates nine
stones and measures 1.4m in diameter by 0.26m in height. The socket stone
rests on the uppermost step. It is made up of two separate stones, one
immediately above the other. The bottom stone measures 0.78m square by 0.16m
deep. It is square in plan and chamfers upwards to a smaller square, which
neatly matches the smaller top stone. The top stone is 0.72m square in plan at
the base. The corners are chamfered to form an upper surface of octagonal
section. The height is 0.5m. Inscribed on the east face of the socket stone
are the words `Plague A.D. 1637, Burials 315, Libera Nos Domine'. It is
believed that 315 victims of the plague, which hit Ross-on-Wye in 1637, were
buried in a pit to the west of the cross. The shaft is mortised into the
socket stone and bonded with lead. It is square in section at the base
tapering upwards in octagonal section. The knop is also octagonal in section,
and joins the shaft to the head, which takes the form of a crucifix with
foliate decoration at the terminals. Both the knop and head represent modern
additions to the cross. The full height of the cross is approximately 3.6m.

The cross is Listed Grade II*.

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 churchyard cross at St Mary's is a good example of a medieval standing
cross with an octagonal stepped base. It occupies a prominent position close
to the north east entrance to the church. Whilst most of the cross has
survived from medieval times, subsequent restoration has resulted in its
continual function as a public monument and amenity. The inscription
commemorating victims of the plague in the 17th century provides a valuable
insight into the social history of the town.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historic Monuments of Herefordshire, (1932), 160
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Ross on Wye, pamphlet on church and churchyard

Source: Historic England

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