Get into the small town of Alloa, where the buses stand at Shillinghill. From here walk southwest down Mill Street, which runs into Bank Street. Keep your eyes peeled on your right-hand side, where outside one of the old municipal buildings you’ll see it standing upright.
Archaeology & History
Although now standing against the old buildings halfway down Bank Street, Alloa’s Mercat or Burgh Cross was initially set up at the crossroads 162 yards (148m) away, where Mar Street meets Mill Street and Bank Street. It was moved to its present position sometime in the 1880s and knowledge of its early history is scant.
Standing some 10 feet tall, the monument was described in John Small’s (1900) rare magnum opus, where he details the architectural features of the monument, telling:
“The shaft, which rests on a base and three steps, is of the usual square section, with splayed angles, stoped at top and bottom, the top stop being rather peculiar. The head of the Cross is composed of an oblong stone set upright, characteristic of the late type seen in Keikleour and Kinrossie. The oblong is ornamented at the sides with debased volutes and acanthus leaves, the whole crowned by a wreath from which rises a griffin’s head, part of the supporters of the Arms of the Lords of the Manor, Lord Mar and Kellie.”
Anonymous, The Alloa Illustrated Family Almanac, MacGregor & Steedman: Alloa 1887.
Mair, Craig, Mercat Cross and Tolbooth, John Donald: Edinburgh 1988.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
Small, John W., Scottish Market Crosses, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1900.
This old cross was demolished long since, but I think it’s important to rejunevate a memory of its existence back into our times. Little has been written about the site as it was destroyed more than 200 years ago and images of the edifice are rare indeed! It was found near the modern centre of the city and although this ornate-looking thirty-foot tall cross was obviously impressive, an even earlier upright stone stood here in the 13th and 14th century. But this new carved monument took precedence over its older and lesser upright. First described — I think! — by Thomas Gent (1730), he told us that,
“The old cross stood towards the Kennel, against the middle of the market. The lower part was an octagon, had an ascent of six high steps, covered with Tyles for Butchers, higher up with nitches, in which had been effigies and a small pillar above with four Dials and over them a Fane.”
A few years later when Francis Drake (1788) described the same monument, he added very few extra details; though told us it had five steps and not six — but this seems to have been an error on his behalf. In C.B. Knight’s (1944) work we have what seems to be the most complete historical description of this lost stone edifice. He wrote:
“In 1429 a new stone cross had been erected in Thursday Market in place of its predecessor by Marion Braythwayt, widow of John Braythwayt, who was Lord Mayor in 1394… This Cross was described by a writer in 1683 as “a fair Cross of stone, built upon the ascent of five steps, and hath neatly cut in stone a turret or battlement eight square, upon which is placed a round pillar with a four-square stone upon the top, which hath a sundial placed upon every square, and a vane above. The Cross hath a penthouse round about it, covered over with tile, to shelter the market people in rainy weather, and is supported upon eight posts, upon one of which, on the south side, is fixed an iron yard-wand, the standard measure of the market.” In 1705 the ancient Market Cross…was pulled down.”
Cobb, Gerald, “Note on a Drawing of Thursday Market Cross, York,” in The Antiquaries Journal, 43:1, 1963.
Davies, Robert, Walks about the City of York, Nichols & Sons: Westminster 1880.
Drake, Francis, Eboracum; or the History and Antiquities of the City of York, Wilson & Spence: York 1788.
Gent, Thomas, The Antient and Modern History of the Famous City of York, Thomas Hammond: York 1730.
Knight, Charles Bruton, A History of the City of York, Herald: York & London 1944.
Dead easy. Take the A170 road from Pickering to Thornton-le-Dale and as you go into the large village, you’ll hit the old crossroads with the village green. Here be your cross!
Archaeology & History
Shown on the 1854 OS-map, I first came across a description of this old site in Creaser & Rushton’s (1972) scarce but lovely little work on the history of the old village here, where they told that,
“A cross has stood here since John de Eston in 1281 had the grant of a Tuesday market and two yearly fairs. It was repaired in 1820. Every year, the Abbot of Whitby unloaded 1500 red and 1500 white herrings here from his packhorse ponies for transhipment to the Master of St. Leonard’s Hospital at York.”
Or at least, that’s what he got folk to write down in the record-books! Close by were the old village stocks of the village (whose usage should be resurrected in many parts of this country nowadays).
Creaser, A. & Rushton, J.H., A Guide and History of Thornton-le-Dale, Pickering, Yorkshire, E. Dewing: Pickering 1972.
More than 150 years ago outside St. Andrew’s Church in Sedbergh, A.E. Platt wrote (1876) that,
“there was a cross standing in the Market Place adjoining the churchyard on the north, but the last remains of it, and the stone steps it stood on, were taken away some years since by private persons, and may now be seen used as gateposts to a farmyard, some ten miles from their original position.”
Intriguing stuff! Does anyone know which farmyard might still possess these old relics? When the legendary Harry Speight (1892: 443) ventured by here fifteen years later he knew little about their new location, but simply echoed what Platt had previously written. It would be good to know what has become of them…
Platt, A.E., The History of the Parish and Grammar School of Sedbergh, Yorkshire, Atkinson & Pollitt: Kendal 1876.
Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest District Highlands, Elliot Stock: London 1892.