Castleton (7c), Airth, Stirlingshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS  8551 8819

Archaeology & History

Looking down on C-7c

Near the northwestern end of the small geological ridge that runs to the west of Castleton farmhouse, close to an awesome nine-ringed carving, we find this more simplified triple-ringed petroglyph.  And although the carving is easy enough to describe, its labelling (as ‘Castleton 7c’) is rather troublesome.  As with other carvings in this locale, the name of the stone is based on a survey done by Maarten van Hoek in the mid-1990s.  But van Hoek’s sketch of Castleton 7c and the one shown in our photos, whilst very similar, possess attributes that aren’t on van Hoek’s drawing.  Now this isn’t too odd, as many petroglyphs look different when lighting conditions change; to the point where some features you can see one day are almost invisible the next.  But this carving has attributes that are very difficult to miss – and van Hoek’s detailing tended to be good.  But, all this aside: until we can verify with certainty one way or the other and despite my suspicions that this isn’t what van Hoek described, I’m still entering this carving as Castleton 7c. So – now that bit’s out of the way…!

When we visited the site two years ago the day was dark and overcast, so we didn’t really have good conditions for seeing any faint carvings.  But this wasn’t faint, thankfully.  It was completely buried beneath soil and gorse bushes, but thankfully Paul Hornby managed to unearth the one you can see in the photos.  If it is the Castleton 7c petroglyph, it was rediscovered by van Hoek on one of his ventures here in 1985.

Carving showing wavy lines on right
…and from another angle

When we visited the site we only managed to uncover a small section of the stone, as the roots of the surrounding gorse prevented us from seeing more. (it’s tough stuff unless you’ve got the right gardening equipment!)  The section we uncovered consisted of a cup-and-triple-ring.  This is consistent with van Hoek’s sketch and description; but we also found there were two very notable ‘arcs’ on the outer edge of the rings—nearly opposite each other—as if another, fourth ring had been started.  You can’t really miss these elements – and even in the poor lighting conditions we had, these outer arcs are very evident on a number of photos – especially when they are expanded to full-scale.  However, as I mentioned, we were unable to uncover all the rock; but when van Hoek was here there was far less herbage.  What he saw on this carving was as follows:

“Deturfing part of this ridge revealed a fine cup with three rings with a broadly pecked tail; one solo cup; one large oval ring with small central cup; and a faint cup with two rings, the outer one incomplete.  The rock slopes 12º ENE.”

Crap drawing done in crap lighting
van Hoek’s 1996 sketch

The “broadly pecked tail” he mentions is also not really clear in any of the 60 photos we took.  There is a faint line that runs through the three rings, into the central cup and out the other side: a single curving line no less.  It’s certainly visible, but it’s far from broad.  But there are a number of other lines coming out of the rings.  These maybe just natural scratch marks, or even scratches acquired from farming activity.  It’s difficult to say.  In the poor light that we had, there as looked to be a single cupmark a few inches away from the rings, but this isn’t consistent with the position of the cupmark on van Hoek’s sketch.

There’s a simple solution to all this: we need to revisit the site and expose more of the rock.  At least that will tell us once and for all whether this is the same as van Hoek’s stone, or whether we’ve found yet another new carving. Watch this space, as they say! 😉

References:

  1. van Hoek, Martin A.M., “Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth, Central Scotland,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.072784, -3.840828 Castleton CR-7c

Castleton (5f), Airth, Stirlingshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 85584 88087

Archaeology & History

As with other carvings in this locale, the name of the stone is based on a survey done by Maarten van Hoek. (1996)  It’s a pretty simplistic design within the impressive Castleton complex, found at the southeastern end of the gorse-covered rocky ridge, about 70-80 yards west of the farmhouse.  It was uncovered on a visit here by Nina Harris, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer and Lisa Samson on Sunday 19 November, 2018.

The cup-marked stone
Large cup & arc of 3

Unlike the others in the Castleton complex, this carving is probably of interest only to the hardcore petroglyph hunters.  The design consists of at least ten cup-marks on the uncovered section of the rock, one of which appears to have a broken circle with two ‘entrances’ either side of it, so to speak.  The most notable element in the design is close to the edge, where an arc of three cups almost corners a larger cup right at the edge.   There may be more carved elements to be found on the westerly side of the stone, which was covered in deep vegetation when we came here.

References:

  1. van Hoek, Martin A.M., “Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth, Central Scotland,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.071877, -3.839595 Castleton 5f carving

Hill Chapel Cross, Goosnargh, Lancashire

Wayside Cross : OS Grid Reference – SD 57273 38505

Also Known as:

  1. Historic England Monument No. 42648

Getting Here

Cross shown on 1912 OS-map

The Cross base is situated in a thick hedgerow on the east side of Horns Lane, opposite St Francis’ Hill Chapel, just to the north of and on the field side of the electricity transmission line that crosses the road at this point. It can be accessed from the field to the north by crossing the stream. In winter the Cross base is just visible from the road side through the hedge.

Archaeology & History

This cross is not described or noted by Henry Taylor in the 1906 edition of his Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire. All that survives is the substantial socketed base of what is likely to have been a mediaeval cross. It is almost completely hidden in the hedge, and is only accessible for ‘hands-on’ inspection from the field side of the road.

It was described by Historic England as:

‘The socket-stone of a probable wayside cross 1.0m square and 1.5m high…. Its present position in a pasture field suggests that it is not in situ.’

Cross position highlighted
Hidden in the boscage

Despite this description, the substantial nature of the base leads me to query why anyone would wish to move it from elsewhere. It is more likely that past land-owners have encroached on to the ancient highway, and fenced it accordingly. Maybe the Hill Chapel congregation will at some consider exposing the base on its hill crest position and insert a replica cross?

There is no record of what happened to the original Cross.  According to a pamphlet describing Hill Chapel, “this house appears to have always been in Catholic hands”, but no mention is made of the Cross.  A likely culprit for its destruction is the early nineteenth century Protestant fundamentalist the Reverend Richard Wilkinson.

The leaf-filled cross-base

In view of the continuity of Catholic ownership and worship at the Hill Chapel site over the road since before the Reformation, and the sustained persecution suffered by local Catholics in the centuries following the Reformation, it is very unlikely that they would have drawn attention to themselves by erecting the Cross, making it almost certainly of pre-Reformation construction.

Reference:

  1. Anonymous, Hill Chapel Goosnargh, privately published pamphlet available from Hill Chapel, n.d..

© Paul T Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian, 2018

Hill Chapel cross

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Hill Chapel cross 53.841045, -2.650849 Hill Chapel cross

Castleton (2), Cowie, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 85494 88272

Also Known as:

  1. Castleton 9 (van Hoek)

Getting Here

Castleton 2 carving, Airth

If you’re travelling from Stirling or Bannockburn, take the B9124 east to Cowie (and past it) for 3¾ miles (6km), turning left at the small crossroads; or if you’re coming from Airth, the same B9124 road west for just about 3 miles, turning right at the same minor crossroads up the long straight road. Drive to the dead-end of the road and park up, then walk back up the road 350 yards to the small copse of trees on your left.  Therein, some 50 yards or so, zigzag about!

Archaeology & History

Petroglyphs can be troublesome things at the best of time: not only in their ever-elusive root meanings, but even their appearance is troublesome!  This example to the east of Cowie in the incredible Castleton complex is one such case.  It is undoubtedly a multi-period carving, probably first started in the neolithic period, added onto in the Bronze Age, and maybe even finished in the early christian period.  You’ll see why!

It’s been described several times in the past, with Maarten van Hoek (1996) telling how it was rediscovered,

“by Mrs Margaret Morris in 1986 in the birch-coppice at Castleton Wood. A fragment of outcrop rock with a distinct cup-and-three-rings, rather oval-shaped like others in the area.”

The main cup-and-3-rings (photo, Paul Hornby)

But as our own team found out, there’s more to it than that.  Like many of the Castleton carvings, vital elements have been missed in the previous archaeological assessments.  But it’s an easy thing to do.  The carved design here almost ebbs and flows with daylight, shadows, changes in weather, bringing out what aboriginal and traditional peoples have always told us about rock itself, i.e., it’s alive, with qualities and virtues that can and do befuddle even that great domain of ‘objectivity’—itself an emergent construct of an entirely subjective creature (humans).  But that’s what petroglyphs do!—whether they are part of a living tradition, or lost in our striving modernity, exhibiting once more that implicit terrain of animism.  And this carving exemplifies it very clearly.

The primary visual design is the odd triple-ring, which isn’t quite as clear-cut as the earlier descriptions would have you think.  In the drawing below by van Hoek (1996), three complete elliptical ‘rings’ are shown; whereas on its northern edge where the outer ring is closest to the rock edge, we find that the ‘ring’ has carved lines that run off and down the slope of the stone towards ground-level.  It also seems that from the inner second-ring, a natural scar in the rock has been heightened by pecking, creating an artificial carved line running from near the centre and ‘out’ of the three rings.  You can make this out in the accompanying photo, above.

van Hoek’s 1996 sketch
The more complete design

Additionally we found two very faint carved ‘eyes’ or trapezoids pecked onto the stone, obviously at a much earlier date than the notable triple-ring—which could almost be modern!  They would no doubt have excited the old archaeologist O.G.S. Crawford (1957), whose curious theory of petroglyphs was that they were images of some sort of Eye Goddess.  Archaeo’s can come out with some strange ideas sometimes…

Fainter still was another triple-ring—albeit incomplete—with what appears to be a very small central cup-mark, just below and between the two ‘eyes’.  It was first noticed by Paul Hornby when he was playing with the contrast settings on his camera, in the hope of getting clearer photos of any missing elements.

Very faint triple-ring, bottom-left of photo (photo by Paul Hornby)

“Can you see this?” he asked.  And although very faint indeed (on most days you can’t see it at all), it’s undoubtedly there: another multiple-ringer all but lost by the erosion of countless centuries, and older still than the ‘eyes’ above it.  In all the photos we took of this stone, from different angles in different weathers (about 100 in all), this very faint triple-ring can only be seen on a handful of images.  But it’s definitely there and you can see it faintly in the attached image (right) to the bottom-left.

A final note has to be made of a possible unfinished, large circular section with a cross cut into the natural feature of the stone.  It’s uncertain whether this has been touched by human hands (are there any geologists reading?), but it’s something that we’re noticing increasingly at more and more petroglyph sites.  They’re not common, but it has to be said that we found two more man-made ‘crosses’ attached to multiple cup-and-rings near Killin just a few weeks ago.  Also, folklore tells us that not far from this Castleton cluster, a christian hermit once lived….

References:

  1. Crawford, O.G.S., The Eye Goddess, Phoenix House: London 1957.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  3. van Hoek, M.A.M.,”Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks as always to Nina Harris, Fraser & Lisa Harrick, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer, Penny & Thea Sinclair, for their additional senses and input.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.073503, -3.841260 Castleton (2)

Market Cross, Halesowen, Worcestershire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SO 9666 8356

Archaeology & History

Halesowen Cross, when it stood in the village

Halesowen Cross, when it stood in the village

The history of this probable late-medieval monument is fragmentary.  It presently stands in the southeast corner of St John the Baptist churchyard, but used to be in the middle of the old village (when the town actually was a village!).  First erected in 1540 CE, the Victoria County History survey suggested that it may have marked an old boundary.  David Eades (1999) gives the most decent account of the monument, which stands more than nine-feet high and has been re-positioned onto stone steps.  He told:

“It marked the town’s market and fair and may once have come originally from Halesowen Abbey.  It was once possibly more ornate, but religious symbols may have been removed during the Reformation.  After a gale on 22 February, 1908, during which the cross blew down, it was dumped on a rubbish tip.  A local solicitor and clerk to the justices, Mr Alfred Homfrey, rescued it, and Mr Job Garratt, the owner of New Hawne Colliery, paid for its recovery and resurrection in the churchyard.”

References:

  1. Eades, David L., Halesowen, Sutton: London 1999.
  2. Frederick W. Hackwood, Oldbury and Round About in the Worcestershire Corner of the Black Country, Cornish Brothers 1915.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 2016

Market Cross

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Market Cross 52.450003, -2.050594 Market Cross

Mercat Cross, Clackmannan, Clackmannanshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – NS 91109 91890

Also Known as:

  1. Burgh Cross
  2. Canmore ID 48318
  3. Clackmannan Cross
  4. Market Cross
Cross on the 1886 map

Getting Here

Take the A907 road between Alloa and Kincardine, and up the B910 into Clackmannan.  To get into the village, depending on which route you’re heading in, go up the Kirk Wynd or the Cattle Market—both of which lead you to the Main Street where, right next to the huge erection known as the Stone of Mannan you’ll see the old Cross on its steps.Getting Here

Archaeology & History

When the Royal Commission (1933) lads wrote about the site in their early survey, they called it the Burgh Cross, telling:Found in association with the village Tolbooth and the more famous Stone of Mannan, this probable 16th century cross stands at the meeting of the four lanes at the centre of the village in the heart of Clackmannanshire.  It was the focal point of an annual market fair which, said Craig Mair (1988), “could last up to eight days”.  It was the meeting place of local villagers where legal issues were called and settled, where bonds and deeds were made and, in all probability, replaced an earlier non-christian monument.

The Mercat Cross
Millers 1889 sketch

“Although the stepped base has been renewed, the shaft is original.  It is 9 feet 6 inches in height and is octagonal in section, measuring 11 inches in diameter.  The capital is moulded and has on the east side a shield enclosed by swags and bearing a saltire and chief, for Bruce.  A second shield, carved on the west side, has apparently been similarly charged, but is now very weatherworn.  The ball finial on the capital was removed in 1857, but replaced in 1897.”

The reference to the chief, Bruce, is said by tradition to be that of Robert the Bruce.  This element in the cross’ history has been transposed mistakenly by early english writers onto the adjacent Stone of Mannan.

Cross & Mannan’s Stone

In recent times both the cross and the Stone of Mannan were repaired, at a staggering cost of £160,000.  How the hell it cost that much is anybody’s guess – but it certainly sounds as if someone’s pockets would have been bulging!

References:

  1. Mair, Craig, Mercat Cross and Tolbooth, John Donald: Edinburgh 1988.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Clackmannan District and Falkirk District, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1978.
  4. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914.
  5. Small, John W., Scottish Market Crosses, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.107301, -3.752423 Mercat Cross

Strand Cross, Westminster, London, Middlesex

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 3077 8093

Also Known as

  1. Stone Cross of the Strand

Archaeology & History

First mentioned in Latin manuscripts from 1274 CE, the best description of this long lost monument, curiously, appears to be in Gover’s Place Names tome.  In a slightly edited format he told us the following:

“There was a stone cross “without the bar of the New Temple” traditionally supposed to have been erected by William Rufus “in devotion to the Holy Cross and for the health of the souls of himself and his mother, Queen Maud… It was in the Strand, possibly on the site of the present church of St. Mary.  It is referred to as crucem lap’ in 1274; la Crois de Piere in 1293; …Stonecrouch in 1337; crucem fractum in 1342…”

In subsequent notes Gover et al (1942) tell of a man they found in historical records to be Thomas le Barber, “described alternatively  as being Thomas le Barber atte Stonecourche” in the Calendar of Rolls records of 1337, and again in the 1339 accounts.

Of the cross itself, information is minimal and scattered.  It was destroyed several centuries ago but is mentioned in a number of old books on the history of the city.  The historian Thomas Allen (1829), for example, told that

“opposite to Chester Inn stood an ancient cross.  On this cross in the year 1294, the judges sat to administer justice, without the City.”

It was also a site where legal pleas for the county of Middlesex were to be held, at “the Stone Cross of lad Straund” as it was then known.  Due to the early administrative function delivered from this cross, it strongly implies the place to have been a moot site prior to the erection of the cross, probably dating from the period in which tribal elders met here.

A Mr Newton tells in his London in the Olden Time that the top of the cross was damaged and knocked off by the crazy christians around the time of the Reformation and that for many years stood headless.  When Vallance (1920) came to describe it, he told merely that,

“the Strand Cross, near Covent Garden.  This cross was hexagonal on plan, and comprised four stages.  It was standing in 1547, but was ultimately removed, its site being occupied by the Maypole, which was spoken of in 1700 as new.”

The Strand Cross would have been on the ancient ley (not one of those ‘energy lines’ invented by New Age fantasists) described first of all by Alfred Watkins (1925)—running from St. Martins-in-the-Field to St. Dunstan’s in Fleet Street—but he seems to have been unaware that the monolith ever existed.  The alignment was subsequently described in more detail in Devereux & Thomson’s (1979) work on the same subject, but its existence seems to have evaded them too!  Chris Street (2010) did include it in his much more detailed walk down the same ley.   A maypole was also known to exist close to the site of the cross; with one account showing that the two monuments existed at the same time in 1543.

As the site seemed to have been an early moot spot, the Strand Cross may have been an omphalos in early popular culture (before the christians of course), or at the very least, a site of popular animistic tradition.

References:

  1. Allen, Thomas, The History and Antiquities of London – volume 4, Cowie & Strange: London 1829.
  2. Anon., Rotuli Hundredorum – 2 volumes, G. Eyre and A. Strahan: London 1812.
  3. Aungier, George James, Croniques de London, Camden Society: London 1854.
  4. Devereux, Paul & Thomson, Ian, The Ley Hunter’s Companion, Thames & Hudson: London 1979.
  5. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, Allen & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Middlesex, Cambridge University Press 1942.
  6. Newton, William, London in the Olden Time, Bell & Daldy: London 1855.
  7. Stevenson, W.H. (ed.), Calendar of the Close Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, HMSO: London 1900.
  8. Street, Christopher E., London’s Ley Lines, Earthstars: London 2010.
  9. Vallance, Aymer, Old Crosses and Lychgates, Batsford: London 1920.
  10. Watkins, Alfred, The Old Straight Track, Methuen: London 1925.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Strand Cross

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Strand Cross 51.512179, -0.116853 Strand Cross

Cow Cross, Finsbury, London, Middlesex

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 3180 8181

Archaeology & History

Site of Cow Cross on 1896 map

Site of Cow Cross on 1896 map

Not far from the long lost Fag Well could once be seen this old stone monument.  Although not illustrated on the first Ordnance Survey maps of the inner city, it is highlighted on the 1896 edition (as shown here), just where Cow Cross Street meets Charterhouse Street—right by the boundary line—and is marked as ‘Site of Cow Cross’.

The cross gained its named from the cattle market that was held here from very early times, on the boundary of the lands of the Knights Hospitallers in the 12th century.  Cattle itself–both horses and cows—were actually slaughtered at the market by the cross: a practice that has thankfully stopped (in public at least).  Despite the place-name being referenced in many early accounts, actual descriptions of the cross are few and far between due to it being destroyed at quite an early date.  When John Stow came to write his history of London in 1603, he told that it was no longer standing.  Whether the cross replaced an earlier standing stone, we simply do not know…

References:

  1. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, Allen & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Middlesex, Cambridge University Press 1942.
  2. Temple, Phillip (ed.), Survey of London – volume 46, LCC: London 2008.
  3. Vallance, Aymer, Old Crosses and Lychgates, Batsford: London 1920.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Cow Cross

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Cow Cross 51.519838, -0.101834 Cow Cross

Broken Cross, Westminster, London, Middlesex

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 322 812

Archaeology & History

In truly that most unholy of places in England—Westminster, London—there was, in bygone times, a slightly more sacred site which, earlier still, might have been where a standing stone stood…. Might….  But such days are long gone down there.  A gathering place of local people in very early times, the Broken Cross was, according to Vallance (1920),

“erected by the Earl of Gloucester in the reign of Henry III (1216-1272), but it did not stand very long.  Its site is said to have been ‘the place of the meeting of the Folkmote…near St. Martin’s-le-Grand, about midway between the Northgate of the precinct (of St. Paul’s) and the church of St. Vedast.’  On 5th September 1379, agreements were drawn up for letting the stations about the Broken Cross to five divers persons.  The cross was bodily taken down in 1390.”

Yet its name was maintained in street-names for many years later, simply as ‘Broken Cross’.  Its position would have been very close to Cheapside.

George Gomme (1880) pointed out that such early folk moots were the development of tribal gatherings grafted from megalithic meetings onto early christian assemblies, pointing out how such assemblies for laws and councils were made at nearby St. Paul’s as early as 973 AD.

References:

  1. Gomme, George Laurence, Primitive Folk-Moots, Sampson Low: London 1880.
  2. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, Allen & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Middlesex, Cambridge University Press 1942.
  3. Vallance, Aymer, Old Crosses and Lychgates, Batsford: London 1920.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Broken Cross

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Broken Cross 51.514645, -0.097060 Broken Cross

Reap’s Cross, Heptonstall Moor, West Yorkshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 94360 30269

Also Known as:

  1. Long Stoop
  2. Ralph’s Cross

Getting Here

Reaps Cross on 1851 OS-map

Reaps Cross on 1851 OS-map

From Hebden Bridge go up the Heptonstall road, going round the village and onto and through Slack, keeping straight on the road until it goes uphill for a short distance, then levels out; then watch out for the small right-turn at Colden and the single-track road heading to a dead-end.  Go right to the end, the very end, and go through the gate and walk up the track onto the moor.  As you reach the ridge and the moorlands open up before you, note the small ‘standing stone’ on your right, about 10 yards off-path— and there, 100 yards the opposite direction to your west, the tall upright Reaps Cross is sat on the moortop.  Y’ can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Found in the middle of a beautiful nowhere not far from the prehistoric standing stone on Standing Stone Hill, this old tall monolith was said to have stood as a marker beside the old road which ran from Halifax over the moors to Colne, until the more recent Widdop Road became the more preferred route.  Known locally as the Long Stoop, in 1900 George Tyack said of it,

“This stone, which is composed of millstone grit, lay for a long tine broken and overthrown, but has in recent years been replaced on its original site and restored.  It is a simple Latin cross standing twelve feet high amidst the heather of the Yorkshire moors.”

Longbottom's 1897 sketch

Longbottom’s 1897 sketch

Waddington's 1884 sketch

Waddington’s 1884 sketch

Shortly before Tyack’s description, the local historian John Longbottom (1897) wrote a series of articles on the old stone crosses of the region and gave us this old sketch of the site (right).  Even in his day the cross had been “wilfully thrown down” (probably by the screwy Puritans at that time), but a short time later it had been “repaired and restored to its original position.”  In Longbottom’s day there were short ‘arms’ extending outwards from near the top of the obelisk, defining it as a distinct ‘cross’, but these have subsequently been lost following further local demolition attempts. He told how,

“Reaps Cross is known locally to shepherds, gamekeepers and farmers at ‘T’ Long Stoop’, and…apart from its religious associations, it forms an important landmark, now as in ancient times, to many a poor weary traveller crossing the dreary and lonesome hills between Lancashire and Yorkshire.”

The cross keeps getting knocked over, by both lightning and idiots of various persuasions; but thankfully the old fella keeps getting resurrected and put back in its place. It’s history is a curious one.  When Clifford Byrne (1974) wrote about the site in his unpublished survey, he told how

“This cross appears to be of medieval origin and…in 1973 the monolith lay broken, one section lying in the grass, whilst the other section still stood in the pedestal.  It is seen to have been broken once before, for the remains of iron clamps are seen on both sections.  The arms have been broken off in some age… A local farmer insisted that the correct name was Ralphs Cross not Reaps Cross, and it should be noted that a section of moor at Widdop (the valley with the high cliffs) is named after a Ralph.”

Standing some 12 feet tall, this is the highest of all the crosses in West Yorkshire and obviously some considerable work went into its creation all those centuries ago.  Nobody is sure when it was first made, but the educated guess is 12th century.  Why it was erected here, way off from anywhere in the middle of the wild moors, is equally puzzling.  It may have had something to do with the nearby medicinal springs; it may have been as a guide-post to travellers—”to Rastric Greave”, according to Waddington (1884); it may have marked an ancient religious route; or it may have distracted people away from the prehistoric upright that gave its name to Standing Stone Hill, a short distance to the west  We simply don’t know.  It’s well worth visiting though, as the moorland landscape up here is truly expansive and civilization seems thankfully centuries away…

Folklore

Local tradition told that the cross marked an old corpse route, along which the dead were carried before being buried at Heptonstall.  Here at Reaps Cross, the bodies were rested by the weary travellers.  If this is true, it is probable that the ancient standing stone more than half-a-mile to the west once had something to do with such old rites and routes.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Byrne, Clifford, A Survey of the Ancient Wayside Crosses in North-East Lancashire, unpublished MS, 1974.
  3. Longbottom, John, “Ancient Crosses in Halifax Parish – Part 2,” in Halifax Naturalist, 2:8, June 1897.
  4. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.
  5. Tyack, George, The Cross in Ritual, Architecture and Art, William Andrews: London 1900.
  6. Waddington, J. Arthur, “The Crosses in and Around Burnley,” in Transactions of the Burnley Literary & Scientific Club, volume 1, 1884.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.768734, -2.087046 Reaps Cross