Register of ancient monuments

Reference number 1012874

Anglican High Cross In Churchyard
St Matthews Methodist And Anglican Church
Church Street


The monument includes the remains of the Anglian high cross in St Matthew's churchyard and comprises the socle or socket stone of the cross. Originally a stone shaft and cross head would have been set into the socle but these components are now missing.

The socle consists of a roughly dressed gritstone block measuring c1.06m high and tapering asymmetrically from c75cm square at the base to c52cm square at the top. In the top there is a rectangular socket hole measuring c30cm by 25cm by 15cm deep. A single line of roll-moulding extends round the base of the socle while all four corners are edged with what seems to be eroded cable- mouldings. Roll-moulding also extends round the top of the socle, c. 5cm below the rim, and there appear originally to have been knots where these mouldings intersect with those on the corners, but these knots are now very eroded. On each face of the socle, further fine lines of roll-moulding form panels framing carved ornamentation. On the south face, this ornamentation takes the form of a so-called 'Tree of Life' comprising scroll-like branches emerging sideways from a central stem. This design is repeated in a different and not so well-preserved form on the east face and also on the west face which, in the past, has been mistakenly described as blank. On the north face the panel is divided by a vertical rib flanked by differing forms of interlace. This design may also represent a form of the 'Tree of Life'.

Although the present Church of St Matthew is a modern foundation and not directly associated with the cross, the latter is nevertheless considered to be in its original location because it stands on the projected line of a Roman road. This suggests that the cross may have marked an ecclesiastical or territorial boundary, or it may alternatively have been a cenotaph marking a grave within a larger cemetery. If so, the buried remains of this cemetery will survive around the cross, but they are not included in the scheduling as their existence has not been verified. In addition to being scheduled, the cross is Grade II* Listed.


High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross.

High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services, some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration of high crosses divides into four main types : plant scrolls, plaiting and interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church, but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the art styles and mythology of Viking settlers.

Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and re-used in new building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and changing styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally important.

The example in St Matthew's churchyard is important for being in its original location and for the art-historical importance of its carvings which, although not well-preserved, survive sufficiently well to illustrate the influence of Scandinavian art-forms on this type of monument. In addition to this, the cross is an important indicator of further surviving Anglo-Scandinavian remains in this locality.

Selected Sources:

Book Reference - Author: Cookson, N. - Date: 1986 - Type: PHOTO - Description: In SMR
Book Reference - Author: Faull, M and Moorhouse, A (ed) - Title: West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 - Date: 1981 - Page References: 205 - Type: DESC TEXT
Book Reference - Author: Shackleton Hill, Angela - Date: 1994 - Type: PHOTO - Description: On EH file
Unpublished Title Reference - Author: Williams, J.I - Title: Township of Rastrick... - Date: 1983 - Type: ILLUSTRATION - Description: BA Dissertation, Univ. Birmingham

Last Updated: 07/10/2004