Ancient Monuments

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Standing cross in St Mary's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Aldford and Saighton, Cheshire West and Chester

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Latitude: 53.139 / 53°8'20"N

Longitude: -2.8421 / 2°50'31"W

OS Eastings: 343761.1735

OS Northings: 360534.5865

OS Grid: SJ437605

Mapcode National: GBR 7D.663N

Mapcode Global: WH88N.9CVF

Entry Name: Standing cross in St Mary's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 24 September 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017313

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32561

County: Cheshire West and Chester

Civil Parish: Aldford and Saighton

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Bruera St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes the remains of a standing cross immediately to the south
of the south porch of St Mary's Church, Bruera. The base and part of the
shaft survive and have been converted into a sundial.
The base is a single block of buff sandstone, square with a slightly chamfered
top edge, measuring 0.75m wide by 0.3m high. The socket is smaller than the
shaft fragment, providing a mortice and tenon connection. The shaft is also of
buff sandstone, squared, tapering slightly and rising from a roll moulding at
the base. It measures 0.4m wide and 1.15m high and is decorated with a roll
moulding at each corner. This is surmounted by a square capstone of a
different type of sandstone which measures 0.3m wide by 0.2m high, with a
slight chamfer on the edges of the underside. This has been drilled for
fitting a sundial, now missing. On the west side the cap is inscribed TM JH CW
and dated 1736. The shaft is inscribed WP HN CHURCHWARDENS 1693 on its west
and north faces.
Gravestones and a flagged pathway, where they fall within the cross'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

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 finely designed late medieval cross in the St Mary's churchyard is
important as an indication of the liturgical and parochial functions of
standing crosses at this period. The remains are also evidence of Catholic
recusant attempts to rescue such monuments from the ravages of iconoclasts
during the Reformation. The cross stands in its original location on the
southern side of the church.

Source: Historic England

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