[Illustration: The Market Cross, Salisbury, Wilts. Oct. 1908]
Sometimes you will find above a cross an overhead chamber, which was used for the storing of market appurtenances. The reeve of the lord of the manor, or if the town was owned by a monastery, or the market and fair had been granted to a religious house, the abbot’s official sat in this covered place to receive dues from the merchants or stall-holders.
There are no less than two hundred old crosses in Somerset, many of them fifteenth-century work. Saxon crosses exist at Rowberrow and Kelston; a twelfth-century cross at Harptree; Early English crosses at Chilton Trinity, Dunster, and Broomfield; Decorated crosses at Williton, Wiveliscombe, Bishops-Lydeard, Chewton Mendip, and those at Sutton Bingham and Wraghall are fifteenth century. But not all these are market crosses. The south-west district of England is particularly rich in these relics of ancient piety, but many have been allowed to disappear. Glastonbury market cross, a fine Perpendicular structure with a roof, was taken down in 1808, and a new one with no surrounding arcade was erected in 1846. The old one bore the arms of Richard Bere, abbot of Glastonbury, who died in 1524. The wall of an adjacent house has a piece of stone carving representing a man and a woman clasping hands, and tradition asserts that this formed part of the original cross. Together with the cross was an old conduit, which frequently accompanied the market cross. Cheddar Cross is surrounded by its battlemented arcade with grotesque gargoyles, a later erection, the shaft going through the roof. Taunton market cross was erected in 1867 in place of a fifteenth-century structure destroyed in 1780. On its steps the Duke of Monmouth was proclaimed king, and from the window of the Old Angel Inn Judge Jeffreys watched with pleasure the hanging of the deluded followers of the duke from the tie-beams of the Market Arcade. Dunster market cross is known as the Yarn Market, and was erected in 1600 by George Luttrell, sheriff of the county of Somerset. The town was famous for its kersey cloths, sometimes called “Dunsters,” which were sold under the shade of this structure.
Wymondham, in the county of Norfolk, standing on the high road between Norwich and London, has a fine market cross erected in 1617. A great fire raged here in 1615, when three hundred houses were destroyed, and probably the old cross vanished with them, and this one was erected to supply its place.
The old cross at Wells, built by William Knight, bishop of Bath in 1542, was taken down in 1783. Leland states that it was “a right sumptuous Peace of worke.” Over the vaulted roof was the Domus Civica or town hall. The tolls of the market were devoted to the support of the choristers of Wells Cathedral. Leland also records a market cross at Bruton which had six arches and a pillar in the middle “for market folkes to stande yn.” It was built by the last abbot of Bruton in 1533, and was destroyed in 1790. Bridgwater Cross was removed in 1820, and Milverton in 1850. Happily the inhabitants of some towns and villages were not so easily deprived of their ancient crosses, and the people of Croscombe, Somerset, deserve great credit for the spirited manner in which they opposed the demolition of their cross about thirty years ago.