Ancient Monuments

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Neville's Cross

A Scheduled Monument in Neville's Cross, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.7724 / 54°46'20"N

Longitude: -1.5934 / 1°35'36"W

OS Eastings: 426257.299223

OS Northings: 542022.072416

OS Grid: NZ262420

Mapcode National: GBR KF98.V0

Mapcode Global: WHC4Q.H9HQ

Entry Name: Neville's Cross

Scheduled Date: 6 December 1927

Last Amended: 2 December 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016622

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32052

County: County Durham

Electoral Ward/Division: Neville's Cross

Built-Up Area: Durham

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Neville's Cross St John

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes a pyramidal base, sole stone, socket stone and shaft
situated on the north side of Crossgate Peth opposite St John's Church in
Durham. It is surrounded by a wall which stands 1.5m high, surrounded by
iron railings. Both the wall and the railings are included in the scheduling.
The enclosure formed by the wall has a cobbled surface that is level with the
top of the wall and measures 5m square. The wall retains the raised ground
level that the cross rests on. The pyramidal base of the cross measures 3m
square by 1m high and is built of rough sandstone blocks. The top of the base
is flagged. The modern sole stone is composed of two ashlar blocks crudely
chamfered at the top and is cemented onto the base. It measures 1.4m square.
The socket stone rests on the sole stone and measures 1m square by 0.6m high.
Its four corners have been chamfered to make it octagonal at its top. These
chamfered corners had projecting carvings of the four evangelists. Only the
carvings on the north west and south east corners remain. Near the base on
each side of the socket stone are two holes measuring 5cm wide by 7cm high,
which are believed to be lewis holes. The socket measures 0.36m square.
The shaft is not the original and is believed to be a reused milestone. It is
cemented into the socket and measures 0.35m by 0.2m wide and 1m high.
The cross, which is Listed Grade II, is believed to be in situ as its present
location is the same as depicted on both the first and second edition 1:2500
Ordnance Survey maps. A cross is known to have existed in the area before the
Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346 to which the surviving cross is attributed.
In 1323 the then Neville's Cross was described as a boundary marker in the
deeds of Durham Priory and believed to have been used as an indicator for the
ancient circular enclosure known as Howlcroft to the south. The present cross
was erected to commemorate the Battle of Neville's Cross, although the only
recognisable surviving element is the socket stone. The cross is described in
the `Rites of Durham' in 1593 as having a seven-stepped base, sole stone,
socket stone, shaft, boss and crucifix. The socket stone had the carved
pictures of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John on the corners.
The shaft was octagonal and three and a half yards high. The boss was
octagonal. The crucifix had a stone cover and bore the image of Christ on the
cross with Mary on one side and St John the Evangelist on the other. This
cross was knocked down and defaced in 1589. In the mid-18th century the cross
was depicted in a drawing as only the socket stone resting on a heavily
undermined base. A drawing from 1778 shows the socket stone on its mound and
with the inserted milestone.

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.

Neville's Cross, despite being poorly preserved, is in its original position.
It has a strong historical association with the Battle of Neville's Cross.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Mee, A, The King's England Durham Twixt Tyne and Tees, (1953), 148
Drury, J L, 'The Battle of Nevilles Cross 1346' in The Monument at Neville's Cross, (1998)
Roberts, M, 'The Battle of Nevilles Cross 1346' in Nevilles Cross, Durham: A Suggested Reconstruction, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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