Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 374 pages of information about Vanishing England.
and bodies heavy, and the bearers were not sorry to find frequent resting-places, and the mourners’ hearts were comforted by constant prayer as they passed along the long, sad road with their dear ones for the last time.  These wayside crosses, or weeping crosses, were therefore of great practical utility.  Many of the old churches in Lancashire were surrounded by a group of crosses, arranged in radiating lines along the converging roads, and at suitable distances for rest.  You will find such ranges of crosses in the parishes of Aughton, Ormskirk, and Burscough Priory, and at each a prayer for the soul of the departed was offered or the De profundis sung.  Every one is familiar with the famous Eleanor crosses erected by King Edward I to mark the spots where the body of his beloved Queen rested when it was being borne on its last sad pilgrimage to Westminster Abbey.


Market crosses form an important section of our subject, and are an interesting feature of the old market-places wherein they stand.  Mr. Gomme contends that they were the ancient meeting-places of the local assemblies, and we know that for centuries in many towns they have been the rallying-points for the inhabitants.  Here fairs were proclaimed, and are still in some old-fashioned places, beginning with the quaint formula “O yes, O yes, O yes!” a strange corruption of the old Norman-French word oyez, meaning “Hear ye.”  I have printed in my book English Villages a very curious proclamation of a fair and market which was read a few years ago at Broughton-in-Furness by the steward of the lord of the manor from the steps of the old market cross.  Very comely and attractive structures are many of these ancient crosses.  They vary very much in different parts of the country and according to the period in which they were erected.  The earliest are simple crosses with steps.  Later on they had niches for sculptured figures, and then in the southern shires a kind of penthouse, usually octagonal in shape, enclosed the cross, in order to provide shelter from the weather for the market-folk.  In the north the hardy Yorkshiremen and Lancastrians recked not for rain and storms, and few covered-in crosses can be found.  You will find some beautiful specimens of these at Malmesbury, Chichester, Somerton, Shepton Mallet, Cheddar, Axbridge, Nether Stowey, Dunster, South Petherton, Banwell, and other places.

Salisbury market cross, of which we give an illustration, is remarkable for its fine and elaborate Gothic architectural features, its numerous niches and foliated pinnacles.  At one time a sun-dial and ball crowned the structure, but these have been replaced by a cross.  It is usually called the Poultry Cross.  Near it and in other parts of the city are quaint overhanging houses.  Though the Guildhall has vanished, destroyed in the eighteenth century, the Joiners’ Hall, the Tailors’ Hall, the meeting-places of the old guilds, the Hall of John Halle, and the Old George are still standing with some of their features modified, but not sufficiently altered to deprive them of interest.

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Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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