Mitton Green Cross, Great Mitton, Lancashire

Mitton Gree-mapCross:  OS Grid Reference — SD 71217 39613

Also Known as:

  1. Toot Hill Cross

Getting Here

From Great Mitton village centre, take the B6246 road NW turning right up the B6243 road a quarter-mile past Great Mitton Hall.  Same distance again, and just after where the road bends left, on the same side of the road you’ll see a wooden bus-stop. The site is just on the grass next to it.

Archaeology & History

The old site by the road (after QDanT)
The old site by the road (after QDanT)

In a region with many old crosses hiding away in the landscape, we have very little history about this particular wayside cross and its stony base, found below the western edge of Toot Hill.  It will no doubt have had something to do with the monks of the once-prestigious Whalley Abbey a few miles away, but we know not what! The great Lancastrian historian John Dixon would, no doubt, have known something of this place, but he is sadly no longer with us… The only thing I can presently find is a passing mention in Fred Ackerley’s (1947) local history work, who told:

“Continuing along the high road past Mitton Green one sees the base of a roadside cross and directly opposite this cross-base is Toot Hill, where in ancient times it is probable that village meetings were held.”

Close-up of the cross-base, with Teddy! (after QDanT)
Close-up of the cross-base, with Teddy! (after QDanT)

Toot not being a just “a look-out hill” (Smith 1954), but in some cases places where ancient temples were built, “upon high totes” — though we have no record of such a temple, christian or heathen, upon this hill.  So the reason for the stone cross at the bottom remains a mystery. Although, atop of the hill, we see marks very reminiscent of something much more archaic and heathen in nature, still visible in the crop-marks…

References:

  1. Ackerley, Frederick George, A History of the Parish of Mitton in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Aberdeen University Press 1947.
  2. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.

Links:

  1. Pictorial Journey of East Lancashire Crosses

AcknowledegmentsBig thanks to Big Dan for use of his photos. Cheers fella!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Mitton Green cross

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Mitton Green cross 53.851969, -2.438987 Mitton Green cross

Mitton Church Cross, Great Mitton, Lancashire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 7154 3896

Getting Here

Great Mitton Churchyard Cross (after ‘QDanT’)

Take the B6246 road northwest out of Whalley, or else east from Hurst Green, until you hit the little village of Great Mitton, with its churchyard in the middle.  Go into the churchyard and you’ll find this weird-looking cross!

Archaeology & History

The curious-looking upright in the churchyard here has a mixed history by all accounts.  The oldest portion of the cross is universally ascribed to be the top section, rediscovered when it was dug up “shortly before 1801.” (Ackerley 1947) It possesses a carving of the crucifixion on one side, and some curious figures carved on the other, which some ascribe to being Jesus, but could well be the triple female element which would still have been prevalent in peasant culture at the time it’s thought to have been carved.  The original shaft carrying the ‘cross’ had long since been destroyed and so, according to Jessica Lofthouse (1946),

Carved crosshead (© ‘QDanT’)
Early drawing of cross-head

“In 1897 it was ‘re-erected to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the reintroduction of christianity into Britain,’ with the new shaft we see today.  This is the oldest relic in Mitton.”

In J. Buckler’s early 1841 drawing of both sides of the carved cross-head we can see in greater detail the nature of the medieval rock art and this was described in Aymer Vallance’s (1920) decorative analysis of carved crosses in England.  He told that

“the cross-head at Mitton, Yorkshire…is peculiar inasmuch as the crucifixion is sculptured on both faces, but in totally different fashions.  That on the west face has the arms stretched horizontally, within a sexfoil frame, and might well be of the thirteenth century.  Whereas the sculpture on the east face, though much more weatherworn, is of a style that could not have been designed before the fourteenth, or perhaps even the fifteenth century.  The arms of the Christ in this instance are drawn upwards in an unusually oblique direction.  It is impossible that these two representations could have been executed at one and the same date.  The circular outline of the head, too, is peculiar, and suggestive rather of a gable-cross than of a standing cross.  Possibly the west face only was sculptured in the first instance, for a gable-cross, the sculpture on the east face being added later in order to adapt the stone for the head of a churchyard cross.”

Although I’ve gotta say that the three carved figures with the upright arms strikes me more as three females than any crucified character and may be an early depiction of the three Mary’s.

One of the early ministers at Mitton church was none other than John Webster, who wrote the highly influential work, Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, which denounced much of the Church’s obsession and murder of countless people under the auspice of some spurious devil and demonological bollocks which, even today, some still suffer to endure.   Webster was only at Mitton for a few years, before moving into deeper Yorkshire and setting up at Kildwick.

References:

  1. Ackerley, Frederick George, A History of the Parish of Mitton, Aberdeen University Press 1947.
  2. Lofthouse, Jessica, Three Rivers, Robert Hale: London 1946.
  3. Vallance, Aymer, Old Crosses and Lychgates, Batsford: London 1920.

Links:

  1. Pictorial Journey of East Lancashire Crosses

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Mitton Church cross

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Mitton Church cross 53.846359, -2.433712 Mitton Church cross

Withgill Cross, Great Mitton, Lancashire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 7060 4062

Getting Here

Withgill cross location (after QDanT)

From Great Mitton village, go up (north) the slightly winding B6243 road for a mile, then take the left turn up the minor country lane, for about 300 yards, till you reach a tiny crossroad of tracks, one leading down to Scott House and the other up to Withgill Farm.  Stop here!  You’re damn close.  From what our man ‘QDanT’ says, this is now to be found behind the hedge by the roadside, on the side of the road where the track runs up to Withgill Farm, tucked low and overgrown close to the ground.  Good luck!

Archaeology & History

Described by Mr Ackerley (1947) as being found

“in the coppice beside the gate to Withgill is the base of another road-side cross,”

Cross-base (after QDanT)

all but overgrown by ivy and lost to the causal eye.  Thankfully our man Danny got on his bike and found the remains of the little fella, all-but invisible beneath the vegetative growth!  Beneath the vegetation, John Dixon told there to be “some interesting 17th century graffiti,” but there’s not much that remains of the old cross.

Folklore

There is a curious story about a legendary church that was once supposed to have been up the track on the hill just above here at the farm.  The story goes,

“that when Mitton church was built, it ought to have been built on Withgill Knowle: that there was a church somewhere about there, and that the stones from it were carted down to Mitton in one night and used in building the present church.”

This bitta folklore is a motif found commonly at prehistoric sites, where stones from our ancient places were uprooted and moved (destroyed) to give way to the new christian mythos.  To my knowledge, no such prehistoric sites are known hereby.  Mr Dixon – over to you dear sir!

References:

  1. Ackerley, Frederick George, A History of the Parish of Mitton in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Aberdeen University Press 1947.

Links:

  1. Pictorial Journey of East Lancashire Crosses
  2. Teddy’s Exploration of the Withgill Cross Base

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Withgill cross

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Withgill cross 53.860961, -2.448499 Withgill cross