Ancient Monuments

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Rey Cross, 670m west of Old Spital

A Scheduled Monument in Bowes, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.5058 / 54°30'20"N

Longitude: -2.1487 / 2°8'55"W

OS Eastings: 390470.470178

OS Northings: 512284.494

OS Grid: NY904122

Mapcode National: GBR FJFB.MK

Mapcode Global: WHB4N.Y0ZM

Entry Name: Rey Cross, 670m west of Old Spital

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 19 March 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016467

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32713

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Bowes

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham


The monument includes a standing cross of early medieval date, situated near
the highest point of Stainmore close to an ancient county boundary.
The weathered sandstone cross is visible as part of a stone shaft and a stone
cross base. The rectangular cross base measures 0.6m by 0.7m and is 0.4m deep.
The shaft stands 0.68m high and is 0.29m by 0.26m thick at its base. The top
of the shaft has slightly rounded edges and the top of each face thickens
slightly. Rey Cross was moved in 1990 from a position south of the A66 to its
new position north of the new A66 dual- carriageway. Antiquarian accounts and
ancient documents suggest that the cross was originally of cruciform shape,
decorated in Viking style, although today it appears undecorated. Documents
also show that in 1258 the cross served as a boundary marker for the Diocese
of Glasgow. The name `Rey' is thought to have been derived from the Old Norse
element `hreyrr' which can be taken to mean a heap of stones forming a
boundary. Rey Cross is Listed Grade II*.
The wooden fence and the plinth containing the official notice board are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of
locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found
throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving
examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses
were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of
carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this
tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be
either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within
dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently
small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross.
High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with
established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services,
some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes
or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration
of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and
interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the
rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved
ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these
pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and
erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church,
but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the
art styles and mythology of Viking settlers.
Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been
identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are
fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to
represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were
defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th
centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new
building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and
changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs
during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the
north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally

In spite of the fact that it has been moved from its original position, Rey
Cross survives reasonably well and is considered to be a good example of its

Source: Historic England


Vyner. et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass (Draft Report),

Source: Historic England

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