Ancient Monuments

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Lock up and market cross on the green

A Scheduled Monument in Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.3111 / 51°18'39"N

Longitude: -2.135 / 2°8'6"W

OS Eastings: 390684.762347

OS Northings: 156891.506128

OS Grid: ST906568

Mapcode National: GBR 1SX.M20

Mapcode Global: VH973.Y95S

Entry Name: Lock up and market cross on the green

Scheduled Date: 19 January 1938

Last Amended: 19 September 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019736

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34208

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Steeple Ashton

Built-Up Area: Steeple Ashton

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Steeple Ashton

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes a 17th century market cross and an 18th century lock up
on the green at Steeple Ashton, a large village situated on a ridge of Coral
Rag to the east of Trowbridge. Both the cross and the lock up are Listed Grade
The cross comprises a large square plinth set on two steps surmounted by a
column on which a block sundial and ball finial with an iron cross and crown
are set. The entire structure is about 6m high. The lowest step is 1.78m
square. The plinth is large, 0.87m square and 0.8m high, with fielded panels
and pilasters. The column is tuscan in style, 0.57m in diameter and has the
dates of repairs and restorations carved into the top. These include a
supposed founding of the market in 1071, and the construction of the cross in
1679. The sundial is a block with four faces and wrought iron hands surmounted
by a ball finial and a wrought iron cross and crown.
The lock up is octagonal and built of ashlar limestone. It is 2.3m wide from
face to face with walls 0.2m thick with a doorway to the north 1.47m high. The
door has original strap hinges and a small square window with a hinged iron
grille. The roof is domed, also of ashlar and surmounted by a ball finial, the
entire structure being 3.6m high. Inside there is a wooden bench and small
stone privy. The floor is flagstone and the walls are limewashed.
The lock up was built in 1773 by William Rawlins at a cost of 19 pounds and 18

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

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.

Lock ups or blind houses are small buildings built as temporary prisons for
the incarceration of drunkards, vagrants and people disturbing the peace.
Generally stone built but occasionally wooden, they are square, round or
octagonal and contain either one cell or one for either sex. A small,
sometimes barred window was often included but the inside was always dim,
hence the term blind house. In some examples, an iron cradle or wooden bench
survives, on which the prisoner slept. They were often built by the parish or
as a gift to the village or town by a wealthy resident and are generally
centrally placed within the settlement. Blind houses went out of use in the
mid-19th century when they were made redundant by the founding of a regular
police service.
The lock up on the green is a well-preserved example with many original
fittings including, unusually, a privy. Its construction is well documented.
The market cross is a particularly large and unusually elaborate example which
may represent an attempt to revive an earlier market. It is likely to be in
its original location.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pevsner, N , The Buildings of England: Wiltshire, (1975), 482
Pevsner, N , The Buildings of England: Wiltshire, (1975), 482
Rogers, KH, Steeple Ashton village history and guide, 1987, Unpublished guide

Source: Historic England

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