TAKE A LOOK AT... (in Derbyshire)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 17th December 2001 (p2), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.

TAKE A LOOK AT: CROSSES AROUND THE PEAK

Most powerful of all Christian symbols, the cross was chosen to mark preaching sites of the early missionary priests, who in the seventh century began to convert Britain to Christianity. A number of carved preaching crosses survive in the Peak, the most complete are in the churchyards of Eyam, Ilam, Hope and Bakewell - which also has an example brought from Two Dales. Archaeologist Clive Hart believes that the original site of this much-travelled cross was on Beeley Moor, where he has identified a socketed stone base.

Taddington has the least ornate cross, yet this was dated by Dr J. Charles Cox to the seventh century and may be the earliest in the Peak. Remnants of preaching crosses are also found in Rowsley, Darley St. Helen's and Alstonefield churches, and in Buxton museum.

As stone churches came to be built, 'Holy crosses' were placed along outlying tracks to guide travellers to them. On the north side of Hope churchyard stands the stump of Eccles Cross, originally sited on an old track leading directly to the church. Hollins Cross, a point on the ridge between Mam Tor and Lose Hill, took its name from another Holy Cross which formerly stood at the most exposed point on the track from Edale to the parish church at Castleton.

BOUNDARY CROSSES

The same symbol was used in medieval times to mark boundaries of monastic and other estates, generally on inhospitable land which remains uninhabited to this day. An example well known to walkers is the remote Edale Cross on Kinder. Once known as Champion Cross it marked the boundary of Campagna, a district of the Royal Forest of the Peak. A restoration date of 1810 is inscribed on the head.

The parishes of Abney, Hazelbadge and Bradwell met at Robin Hood's Cross, still marked at Bradwell Edge on the Ordnance Survey map although the cross itself is long gone and its base has been built into a stone wall.

The most ancient of tracks were established in prehistoric times as trade routes and as such continued into the days of packhorse travel, important in the Peak into the middle of the last century. Jaggers kept their team to the right path by following prominently-sited guideposts, normally simple pillars but sometimes known as crosses where they stood at a crossroads. Old packhorse routes are now trodden for pleasure and ramblers are familiar with such remote guidestones as Windyway Cross on Ipstones Edge, Saxon or Greenway Cross near Flash, and Lady's Cross on the old Hathersage to Chesterfield track. This route continued around treacherous Leash Fen, its boundaries still marked with four medieval stone crosses.

In the High Peak, looking down the Vale of Edale from an old track known to the Romans and called Doctor's Gate, stands Hope Cross. This restored landmark supports a square capstone rather than a cross head, inscribed with the names Sheffield, Hope, Edale and Glossop.

By comparison, the fine wayside cross at Wheston, near Tideswell, is neither remote nor plain. It stands in a small enclosure beside a road known in earlier times as Crossgate. One side of the ornate head is carved with the Holy Mother and Child, the other with the Crucifixion. In design it is similar to Foolow Cross which formerly stood on the site of St. Hugh's church but now has pride of place on the village green.

REMINDERS

A few peakland villages have retained a market cross, long after their markets fell into disuse. One exception is Wirksworth, but even so the old 9' cross is thought to have been taken into the churchyard for safekeeping long ago, rather than being left in the still active market place. According to the church Guide and History the base is probably pre-Norman with a later, thirteenth century shaft.

A market cross on the green at Monyash stands as a reminder that in 1340 the town was of sufficient importance to be granted a market charter. Bonsall, although thwarted in its attempts to obtain a charter some three hundred years ago, has an outstanding market cross on thirteen circular steps. Two stone faces in its head are much earlier than the rest of the cross, possibly pre-Norman.

Knowsley Cross at Sheen is believed to be of Saxon workmanship, consisting of the lower 4' of a shaft and a roughly hewn base. Although it is most probably a Christian cross in its original shape and purpose, local tradition claims that Knowsley cross marks the 9th century Battle of Longnor fought close to the boundary of Mercia, and may have witnessed the defeat of the pagan Danes.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 17th December 2001.

References:
Photograph of The Saxon Cross, Bakewell (elsewhere online)
Photograph of The Saxon Cross, Eyam (elsewhere online)
Photograph of St Hugh's Church, Foolow (elsewhere online)

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

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