Ancient Monuments

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Medieval market cross immediately east of St Andrew's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Castle Combe, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.4935 / 51°29'36"N

Longitude: -2.229 / 2°13'44"W

OS Eastings: 384198.809

OS Northings: 177199.415

OS Grid: ST841771

Mapcode National: GBR 1QN.79F

Mapcode Global: VH963.9QZF

Entry Name: Medieval market cross immediately east of St Andrew's Church

Scheduled Date: 17 January 1935

Last Amended: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019387

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34184

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Castle Combe

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Castle Combe

Church of England Diocese: Bristol


The monument includes a medieval market cross situated in the market place of
Castle Combe, a small stone built village situated in a deep valley cut into
Oolitic limestone by the By Brook. The cross is Listed Grade II.
The cross consists of a stone pedestal 1.11m square raised on two steps in the
centre of a raised stone platform 6.05m square. A high wooden framed pyramidal
stone tiled roof covers the area of the platform. It is supported by four
stone piers 1.8m high set at the corners of the platform and a central stone
shaft which rises from the pedestal to the apex of the roof. The top of the
shaft protrudes from the roof and is capped by a finial. Each side of the
pedestal is divided vertically into three panels, each decorated with
quatrefoil tracery surrounding roses and shields. There are also shields on
the outer angles of the piers.
The cross probably dates from the late medieval period when Castle Combe was
an important and wealthy settlement based around the cloth industry. It was
repaired in 1590 by the inhabitants of the village.
The cross once stood adjacent to a market house which was dismantled in
about 1840 to widen the road. Castle Combe market ceased to be held in the
early years of the 20th century.

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.

The market cross immediately east of St Andrew's Church is a well-preserved
and unusually fine example of a late medieval market cross, standing in its
original position at the centre of the village. It is a monument of
considerable local importance reflecting the significance of the cloth
industry in this area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Scrope, G P, A History of Castle Combe, (1852)

Source: Historic England

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