Grimeford Cross, Adlington, Lancashire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 6200 1284

Also Known as:

  1. Headless Cross

Archaeology & History

Within the Harris Museum, Preston can be found the Upper section of a pre-Conquest stone ‘cross’. Though much damaged on three of its sides the main face displays the upper section of a horned-helmeted figure holding a sword before it. The spreading horns suggest an important figure from the Viking period in Lancashire (c.900). This large and important piece of sculpture was found during the construction of Rivington reservoir on the River Yarrow near the village of Grimeford, Anderton in the 19th century.

Also found at that time during the reservoir construction was the lower section of a ‘cross’ shaft. This shaft is decorated on all four sides with carvings which include: the figure of a man from the waist down; a trellis filled with geometrical ornamentation of horizontal and vertical straight lines repeated to form a band known as a fret; a modified version of T-fret; and a combination of vine scroll and frets. The top of the shaft serves as the base for what is possibly a post medieval sundial base which has been adapted for use as a direction stone with directions to “Preston, Wiggan, Boulton, and Blagburn” (spelled as on the stone) being carved on the sides.  I would suggest that the two fragments are parts of the same monolith and may even depict the Viking Gunnolf (the latter being my own fancy).  This headless ‘cross’ is sited at the junction on the old road near the Millstone pub in Anderton and Grimeford Lane on the way to Rivington (SD 618 130). The stone is known as the ‘Grimeford Headless Cross’ or more locally as the ‘Headless Boggart’.


Legend has it that there used to be a chapel near the junction and a tunnel running to a nearby farm on a hill. In the 16th century shortly before troops came to destroy the chapel, a priest hid in the tunnel and became trapped underground. His body was never found. Many people are said to have seen a ghost at the Headless Cross.


To complement John’s entry, here are Mr Taylor’s notes written more than a hundred years ago in his Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells (1906), where he told:

“The HEADLESS CROSS — These words appear on the ordnance maps at a hilly spot in the extreme south-eastern corner of the hundred, five hundred feet above sea level, and distant one mile from the village of Adlington and about the same distance north from Blackrod.  Both villages have histories going back into the far past… A ‘Windy Harbour’, near the cross, sufficiently indicates the breezy nature of the situation.  The well and the ancient stocks are shown in close proximity to the cross.  The remains of the stocks are still in existence.

“Respecting the Headless Cross and others in this locality, Mr J.W. Crompton of Rivington Hall, writes (February, 1899):

“‘In reply to your note, I never heard of any cross, ancient or modern, in Rivington proper.  There was a tenement known as Butter Cross. Possibly some ancient cross may have existed there, but I know of no record to it.  There used to be a Headless Cross in Anderton, but old Mr Ridgeway, of Ridgemont, removed it many years ago, when he had sporting rights rented in that township, and I believe and old road surveyor broke up a cross in Anglezark to repair his roads early in this century: his name was Gerrard.  Crosses seem to have been specially erected to warn people of dangerous moors they were about to cross, and as a call to prayer in this part of the country, they were frequent.’

“…The subjoined deed is printed in the Chartulary of Cockersand Abbey, circa 1184-1190:

‘Grant in frankalmoign from Ranulf Gogard and his heirs to God [and the canons of Cockersand] for the health of the souls of his mother and his wife Edith, of all the land from Fulford to the path which crosses Rascahay Brook, between Heath Charnock and Adlington, as it was marked out by the crosses and marks of the said canons; with comon right of Charnock, in wood and plain, feeding grounds and mast in all other liberties.'”


  1. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.

© John Dixon, 2010

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