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Two crosses in St Mary's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Bishop's Lydeard, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.0611 / 51°3'39"N

Longitude: -3.1891 / 3°11'20"W

OS Eastings: 316766.7848

OS Northings: 129751.8354

OS Grid: ST167297

Mapcode National: GBR LX.FHWQ

Mapcode Global: FRA 4669.WZG

Entry Name: Two crosses in St Mary's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 17 August 1976

Last Amended: 16 April 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016708

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32177

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Bishop's Lydeard

Built-Up Area: Bishops Lydeard

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument, which falls into two separate areas, includes two crosses in
St Mary's churchyard. The cross to the north east is located 15m WSW of the
west end of the church and is Listed Grade II. Constructed of Ham stone, the
remains of the original structure include a socket stone with broached
corners, 0.38m high and 0.75m wide, and a length of shaft 0.75m high. A
rectangluar Ham stone, ornate carved block is mounted onto the socket stone on
the east face of the shaft. A 19th century three-stepped octagonal base
supports the original cross structure, constructed of red sandstone rubble;
each step is 0.5m high and each side of the base step is 0.85m long. This
cross previously stood outside the churchyard and was brought into the
sancutuary of the churchyard in the mid-19th century.
The second cross is located 30m south west of the west end of the church and
is Listed Grade II*.It is constructed from red sandstone ashlar and includes a
three-stepped octagonal base, a socket stone, and a shaft. Each step of the
base is approximately 0.45m high and the lowest step is 3.9m in diameter. The
upper step is surmounted by an octagonal socket stone 0.35m high. Each face is
0.75m wide and decorated with a carved panel depicting scenes from the life of
Christ. A tapering, octagonal shaft, aproximately 2m high is set into the
socket stone. A canopied figure, documented as St John the Baptist, is carved
in relief on the east face.

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.

Despite surviving incomplete and not in its original position, the cross
located 15m WSW of the west end of St Mary's church is an important example of
its class displaying unusual characteristics.
Despite the original cross head missing, the cross located 30m south west of
the west end of the church survives well and displays elaborate medieval
figurative carving which was described by a 19th century historian as an
`unrivalled example of 14th century work'.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 92-93
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 90-92

Source: Historic England

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