Castle Hedingham churchyard cross, Castle Hedingham, Essex

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Feature Sets (2)


The cross is situated in the SE corner of the churchyard, some 30m from the chancel.  It consists of a cast lead Celtic style wheel cross bearing the date 1921, mounted on a tapered stone shaft carved with Romanesque foliage ornament on all four faces. This stands on a cuboid base block with 12thc relief carving on its four sides, a plinth with inscriptions, and a low step. Only the base block and the lower section of the shaft are Romanesque.

The cross was discovered in the cellar of the Falcon Inn, and was noted there in RCHME (1916). In 1921 the owner of the Falcon, Mr Kendall, gave it to the village in exchange for nothing more than a replacement support for his cellar roof.  it was removed and remodelled as a First World War memorial: the plinth block being carved with a memorial inscription and the names of the 37 men of the village killed in the war, and a cast lead Celtic style wheel cross bearing the date 1921 being paced on the top. This work was carried out by P. M. Johnson. After World War II four more names were added to the existing panels, including that of the artist Eric Ravilious, who lived in the village from 1934.


The history of the cross shaft and base before it was noticed in the cellar of the Falcon is a matter of speculation.


Exterior Features

Churchyard cross base

The base is approximately square in plan, and not as high as its width.  The angles show remains of a hollow chamfers, perhaps decorated with bosses like the shaft. There is an oblique loss to the top of the block, 0.065m high and affecting the SW, SE and part of the NE faces.  The base is carved in relief on its four side faces with a clasped Byzantine Blossom in the form of a lily with two long intermediate tendrils. Below the clasp a pair of stems form an inverted heart-shaped frame containing the blossom except for the two long tendrils, which cross it, one under and one over, to terminate in spiral leaf forms.


Height of block 0.38m
Width of block (SE-NW) 0.63m
Width of block (SW-NE) 0.64m

1. SE face

The best preserved of the faces and in generally good condition except for the repaired loss to the upper edge.

2. NE face

The lower part of the design is well preserved, but there is a deep horizontal groove above the centre line, and the upper part is generally worn.

3. NW face

The lower part of the design is well preserved, but the upper part is generally striated.

3. SW face

In generally fair condition except for the repaired loss to the upper edge.

Churchyard cross shaft

The shaft is rectangular in section with the wider faces to the SE and NW, and tapers towards the top.  The angles are hollow chamfered with a row of bosses in the chamfer. Most of the shaft is original 12thc work. It is made from a shelly limestone, except for a short, plain section at the top which is a mortar repair.


Max. height of original shaft (NW corner) 1.84m
Min. height of original shaft (SE corner) 1.71m
Width at bottom (SE-NW) 0.250m
Width at bottom (SW-NE) 0.315m
Width at top (SE-NW) 0.225m
Width at top (SW-NE) 0.285m
Overall height of shaft (Including repair) 2.17m

1. SE face

A lily carved in relief, clasped at its base with two stems formind a heart-shaped frame. Side stems emerge between the three main lobes of the lily, extend symmetrically to L and R and terminate in furled leaves. This is the best-preserved of the four faces.

2. NE face

A design like the SE face but badly eroded, especially at the top.

3. NW face

As the SE face, but with deep horizontal wear strata at the top.

4. SW face

As the SE face, but with more wear overall and a major loss owing to the inserted block at the top of the face.


Part of the shaft is in private hands, and the missing portion is modelled in cement (Charles Bird, see http://www.castlehedingham.org/history/war-memorial). The cross is not sufficiently elaborate for a market cross, and is assumed to have been a wayside cross - not especially common but certainly not rare in the country, although I know of no other examples in Essex. Hope (1979) offers a date c.1135 on the basis of comparisons with the Bury Bible.


  • Essex Sites and Mounuments Record 25239.

  • Historic England List number 114531

  • J. H. Hope, 'The Cross Shaft at Castle Hedingham', Essex Archaeology and History, 11 (1979), 1-5.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1: North West (1916), 59.

Churchyard cross from SE
Churchyard cross shaft and base from N
Churchyard cross shaft and base from S


Site Location
Castle Hedingham churchyard cross, Castle Hedingham
National Grid Reference
TL 785 356 
now: Essex
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Essex
now: Chelmsford
medieval: London
Type of building/monument
Report authors
Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
12 November 2015