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Latitude: 53.0737 / 53°4'25"N
Longitude: -2.5505 / 2°33'1"W
OS Eastings: 363213.687
OS Northings: 353087.448
OS Grid: SJ632530
Mapcode National: GBR 7R.BBZN
Mapcode Global: WH9B3.SZNZ
Entry Name: Standing cross in St Mary's churchyard
Scheduled Date: 14 December 1999
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1017058
English Heritage Legacy ID: 32562
County: Cheshire East
Civil Parish: Acton
Traditional County: Cheshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire
Church of England Parish: Acton St Mary
Church of England Diocese: Chester
The monument includes the stepped base and part of the shaft of a medieval
standing cross in St Mary's churchyard in Acton. The top of the shaft is
surmounted by a 17th century sundial. The cross and sundial are Listed Grade
The base of the cross is square, constructed of buff sandstone in large
dressed ashlar blocks. The first step measures 2.75m wide and is 0.3m high;
the second step measures 2.13m wide and 0.25m high and the third step is 1.5m
wide and 0.25m high. This supports a base block of a finer sandstone carved
with a double ogee at the top, measuring 0.85m wide and 0.56m high.
Set into the base block is an octagonal shaft, now 1.9m high, on which is set
an elaborate moulded cap, square and surmounted by a ball finial. On each face
of the square block is an iron gnomon (pointer) used to convert the cross into
Gravestones which adjoin the cross base on the east and south sides where they
impinge on the monument's protective margin are excluded from the scheduling,
although 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
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 remains of the medieval standing cross in St Mary's churchyard survive
well, having been largely preserved from iconoclastic destruction by the
addition of a sundial. The cross stands on the south western side of the
chancel and is probably in its original location. It was reported in this
position in 1705. The cross is a fine example of 14th century carving and is a
good example of medieval devotional building.
Source: Historic England
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