High Cross, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SJ 492 126

Also Known as:

  1. Butter Cross
  2. The Cross

Archaeology & History

This long-lost medieval ornamented cross, found not far from the legendary Grope Cunt Lane (I kid you not) was located close to the middle of old Shrewsbury town, “at the junction of Pride Hill, Castle St and St. Mary’s St,” according to the 1902 OS-map of the region.

Although Shrewsbury’s High Cross is believed to have been built in the 12th or 13th century, we don’t know for sure when it was first erected — and indeed, written records of the place don’t appear to begin until the year 1557, where it was described as the ‘Hye Crosse.’  A few years later in the Parish Registers for the Lichfield diocese, dated 1590, the monument was mentioned again as ‘the Highe Crosse’; and subsequent accounts of it are found in various local history accounts from 1695 to 1799.

The site was named as the Butter Cross in street-name listings of 1804, telling it as a site where this food was sold and we know that the High Cross was the centre of a local market and social gathering place in previous centuries.  Gelling (2004) told that “the medieval cross was taken down in 1705, but the name continued to be applied to structures which replaced it, and which were used as a market place for dairy produce.”

In earlier times, the High Cross is said in legend to have been where executions were enacted.  Alfred Rimmer (1875) narrates the oft-told tale of those who died here, saying:

“The High Cross of Shrewsbury has long been destroyed, but its place is pointed out in old documents.  Unhappily, it is not connected with pleasant associations, for before it the last of the British princes, David, a brother of Llewellyn, was cruelly put to death by Edward I; and at a later period many of the nobility who were taken at the battle of Shrewsbury were there executed, the High Cross being considered the most appropriate place for such a spectacle.”

The prince that Rimmer mentions was Dafydd III, the last prince of Wales, executed in the year 1283.

References:

  1. Gelling, Margaret, The Place-Names of Shropshire – volume 4, EPNS: Nottingham 2004.
  2. Hobbs, J.L., Shrewsbury Street Names, Wilding & Son: Shrewsbury 1954.
  3. Rimmer, Alfred, Ancient Stone Crosses of England, Virtue: London 1875.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

High Cross

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High Cross 52.709056, -2.752629 High Cross

Fairy Stone, Clunbury, Shropshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SO 3723 7958

Also Known as:

  1. The Devil’s Stone

Archaeology & History

The Fairy Stone, on the south-west corner of Clunbury Hill, measures some 3ft by 2 ft 3 in and is some 2ft 6 in high.  Local lore tells that it was once a standing stone, but this may not be the case; it’s thought more likely to be a simple glacial erratic.  The stone is granite with quartz veins and stands very close to the local boundary line.

Folklore

Local researcher Jonathon Mullard found this stone, not surprisingly, to have “had a long tradition of fairy lights associated with it; they were said to appear at certain times of year.”  And Mullard found one very intriguing encounter of these supernatural forms, later narrated in Paul Devereux’s (1990) excellent tome, which told:

“The legend would seem to relate to actual folk knowledge of the site, because Mullard was informed by an elderly woman living locally that she recalled her grandfather telling of an encounter with the lights.  Returning home one evening across Clunbury Hill, he saw the whole area around the stone filled with small lights of a gaseous appearance bobbing up and down a short distance above the ground.  Not wanting to go out of his way, the man walked through them. He found that any lights he happened to touch against adhered to his trousers.  He briskly brushed them off, but found when he got home that the fabric was scorched.  The woman had actually kept the trousers up until a decade or so before talking with Mullard!”

References:

  1. Devereux, Paul, Places of Power, Blandford: London 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Fairy Stone

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Fairy Stone 52.410653, -2.924150 Fairy Stone