Ancient Monuments

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Legs Cross

A Scheduled Monument in Bolam, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.5973 / 54°35'50"N

Longitude: -1.6809 / 1°40'51"W

OS Eastings: 420714.247

OS Northings: 522502.734

OS Grid: NZ207225

Mapcode National: GBR JHP8.WS

Mapcode Global: WHC5G.4QV0

Entry Name: Legs Cross

Scheduled Date: 14 December 1926

Last Amended: 15 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018638

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32042

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Bolam

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Heighington

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes a mid-9th century cross, which is situated in a field to
the west of the B6275 and 50m south of a crossroads with a minor road. The
cross is listed Grade II*.
Visible remains at the site include the shaft, socle and an earth mound. The
socle and shaft are composed of sandstone and stand to a height of 2.6m. The
shaft is 1.7m tall and tapers towards its top. The base of the shaft is 0.3m
east-west and 0.4m wide north-south. On the east face of the shaft the
straight line mouldings which separated panels of interlacing are discernible.
The shaft is cemented onto the socle. The socle is 0.9m high, 0.6m wide east-
west by 0.8m north-south and is cemented at its base. The socle and shaft
stand on a mound that is triangular in plan and constructed of earth and
stone. The points of the triangle are to the north, south west and east of the
cross. The east point is now truncated by widening of the B6275. Three
footings of an iron railings perimeter, now removed, can still be seen to the
north, south and west of the cross.
The monument is in its original position and is shown on the 2nd edition
Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map of 1896. It lies alongside the Roman road known as
Dere Street, running north from Piercebridge. The cross reuses the position
of a Roman milestone as a boundary between the parishes of Gainford and
Staindrop. A foundation stone for a Roman milestone which used to lie next to
the monument is no longer evident.

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

Legs Cross survives in good condition and is an excellent example of an early
medieval boundary cross reusing the site of a Roman milestone.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cramp, R J, The Brit Acad Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture in England Volume 1 pt1, (1984), 122
'Northern Echo' in Mysteries Set In Stone, (1990)
Wooler, E, 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-on-Tyne' in Legs Cross, , Vol. Ser.3, 3, (1907), 71 - 72

Source: Historic England

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