Ancient Monuments

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Market cross in the market place

A Scheduled Monument in Shepton Mallet, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1908 / 51°11'26"N

Longitude: -2.5468 / 2°32'48"W

OS Eastings: 361886.576085

OS Northings: 143652.010273

OS Grid: ST618436

Mapcode National: GBR MS.5BKV

Mapcode Global: VH8B0.SBZG

Entry Name: Market cross in the market place

Scheduled Date: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019974

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33718

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Shepton Mallet

Built-Up Area: Shepton Mallet

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a medieval market cross located at the west end of the
market place in Shepton Mallet town centre, at the junction of High Street and
Town Street.
The market cross, which is Listed Grade II*, is constructed from dressed
Doulting stone and is formed by a benched hexagonal column, each side 1.8m
long at its base, enclosed by an open arcade of six segmental arches resting
on plain pillars each of which is supported by a two stepped stone block 1m in
height and set 2.3m apart.
A parapet surrounds the top of the arches and is decorated at each corner, and
over the centre of each arch, with a crocketed finial. A pinnacled spire in
three tiered stages rises from the central column through the wooden rafters
which form the framework of the roof. Each face of the lower two tiers is
ornately decorated with a canopied niche. The third tier is less ornate and
forms the top of the spire which is crowned with a modern cross.
A sundial adorns the wall at the apex of the south arch.
The market cross was established in its present position in the market place
in 1500 and was dedicated to the memory of Walter Buckland and his wife; it is
believed that the central column forms part of that original structure. The
addition of the arched shelter took place around 1700 and the whole of this
structure has seen several phases of restoration work during the 18th century
and more extensively in the 19th century.
The modern paving slabs around the base of the cross structure are excluded
from the scheduling where they fall within its 1m protective margin, although
the ground beneath them 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.

Despite several phases of restoration, the market cross in the market place at
Shepton Mallet retains features and stonework from its original construction
and continues to perform its original function of marking the site of the
ancient market area, a charter for which was granted to the town in 1219.
The cross provides a focal point for the townspeople and has historical
associations which include having been used for the execution of 12 rebels of
the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 who were hung, drawn and quartered there. The
cross, which is known to have been built at the start of the 16th century,
will retain architectural evidence which will be informative about the design
of such monuments in the late Middle Ages.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 125-131
ST 64 SW 17, NMR, Market Cross,

Source: Historic England

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