Ancient Monuments

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Standing cross in St Mary's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Newbold Astbury, Cheshire East

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Latitude: 53.1509 / 53°9'3"N

Longitude: -2.2317 / 2°13'54"W

OS Eastings: 384602.398

OS Northings: 361556.3635

OS Grid: SJ846615

Mapcode National: GBR 12J.DM2

Mapcode Global: WHBC6.P2H8

Entry Name: Standing cross in St Mary's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 24 September 1999

Last Amended: 7 March 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020625

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30394

County: Cheshire East

Civil Parish: Newbold Astbury

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Astbury St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes a medieval standing cross base in the churchyard of
St Mary's Church. The cross base, which is Listed Grade II, stands 8m
north west of the north west corner of the tower adjacent to the west wall
of the nave. The base is constructed of fine gritstone, is octagonal and
forms two steps up to the base block which is also octagonal. The first
step measures 2.2m in diameter and stands 0.1m high, the second step
measures 1.6m in diameter and stands 0.25m high. The base block measures
0.9m in diameter and tapers slightly to the top. The block is 0.5m high
with a square socle. The socket has been reused as a setting for a later
sundial shaft of a different gritstone. This is square at the base, rising
by shallow-cut shoulders to become octagonal, and stands 0.85m high with a
small drip moulding at the top. The dial and gnomon are missing.
The tombstones which abut the monument, where they fall within the cross's
protective margin, are excluded from the scheduling, 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.

The standing cross base in St Mary's churchyard is late medieval in style.
It stands in its original position and is important as an indication of
liturgical and social customs at the site of the cross during the medieval
period. The conversion of the standing cross to a sundial by adding a
later shaft is also indicative of the strength of local resistance to the
iconoclasm which followed the Reformation in other parts of the country.

Source: Historic England

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