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 At one time a sun-dial and ball crowned the structure, but these have been replaced by a cross.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.