Ancient Monuments

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Standing cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Mary the Virgin

A Scheduled Monument in Whitton, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.3521 / 52°21'7"N

Longitude: -2.6241 / 2°37'26"W

OS Eastings: 357589.612502

OS Northings: 272850.654978

OS Grid: SO575728

Mapcode National: GBR BP.SYH3

Mapcode Global: VH84C.G4MQ

Entry Name: Standing cross in the churchyard of the Church of St Mary the Virgin

Scheduled Date: 5 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020658

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34918

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Whitton

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Whitton

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the extant and buried remains of a medieval standing
cross, which is situated 8m to the south of the Church of Mary the Virgin,
within the churchyard. The church dates from the 12th century. It is a Listed
Building Grade II*, and is not included in the scheduling.
The standing cross is raised upon two circular steps; the lowest has a
diameter of 2m. The steps support a circular socket stone, 0.6m high and 0.8m
in diameter, into which the shaft of the cross has been inserted. The
octagonal shaft has a square base and stands to a height of 1.15m. The shaft,
socket stone and steps are all fashioned from sandstone. A cusped ogee-headed
niche, probably dating to the 14th century, has been cut into the base of the
socket stone to the west. During the medieval period the niche was used to
hold a chalice containing the host, the bread consecrated in the Eucharist,
prior to worship in the church to commemorate Christ's entry into Jerusalem
on Palm Sunday.
The cross is Listed Grade II.

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 in the churchyard of the Church of St Mary the Virgin is
a good example of this class of monument. While it served to remind the local
medieval population of the daily importance of piety, the niche cut into the
base of the socket stone indicates the particular significance of this cross
during Palm Sunday solemnities. The cross is in its original location, and
the area immediately surrounding it appears to be undisturbed and is therefore
likely to contain the buried remains of the contemporary ground surface.

Source: Historic England

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