Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 374 pages of information about Vanishing England.

A curious cross has at last found safety after many vicissitudes in Hornby Church, Lancashire.  It is one of the most beautiful fragments of Anglian work that has come down to modern times.  One panel shows a representation of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  At the foot are shown the two fishes and the five loaves carved in bold relief.  A conventional tree springs from the central loaf, and on each side is a nimbed figure.  The carving is still so sharp and crisp that it is difficult to realize that more than a thousand years have elapsed since the sculptor finished his task.

It would be a pleasant task to wander through all the English counties and note all pre-Norman crosses that remain in many a lonely churchyard; but such a lengthy journey and careful study are too extended for our present purpose.  Some of them were memorials of deceased persons; others, as we have seen, were erected by the early missionaries; but preaching crosses were erected and used in much later times; and we will now examine some of the medieval examples which time has spared, and note the various uses to which they were adapted.  The making of graves has often caused the undermining and premature fall of crosses and monuments; hence early examples of churchyard crosses have often passed away and medieval ones been erected in their place.  Churchyard crosses were always placed at the south side of the church, and always faced the east.  The carving and ornamentation naturally follow the style of architecture prevalent at the period of their erection.  They had their uses for ceremonial and liturgical purposes, processions being made to them on Palm Sunday, and it is stated in Young’s History of Whitby that “devotees creeped towards them and kissed them on Good Fridays, so that a cross was considered as a necessary appendage to every cemetery.”  Preaching crosses were also erected in distant parts of large parishes in the days when churches were few, and sometimes market crosses were used for this purpose.


Along the roads of England stood in ancient times many a roadside or weeping cross.  Their purpose is well set forth in the work Dives et Pauper, printed at Westminster in 1496.  Therein it is stated:  “For this reason ben ye crosses by ye way, that when folk passynge see the crosses, they sholde thynke on Hym that deyed on the crosse, and worshyppe Hym above all things.”  Along the pilgrim ways doubtless there were many, and near villages and towns formerly they stood, but unhappily they made such convenient gate-posts when the head was knocked off.  Fortunately several have been rescued and restored.  It was a very general custom to erect these wayside crosses along the roads leading to an old parish church for the convenience of funerals.  There were no hearses in those days; hence the coffin had to be carried a long way, and the roads were bad,

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Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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