Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells
of Lancashire, by Henry
Crosses marked in medieval times the boundaries of ecclesiastical properties, which by this sacred symbol were thus protected from encroachment and spoliation. County boundaries were also marked by crosses and meare stones. The seven crosses of Oldham marked the estate owned by the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.
CROSSES AT CROSS-ROADS AND HOLY WELLS
Where roads meet and many travellers passed a cross was often erected. It was a wayside or weeping cross. There pilgrims knelt to implore divine aid for their journey and protection from outlaws and robbers, from accidents and sudden death. At holy wells the cross was set in order to remind the frequenters of the sacredness of the springs and to wean them from all superstitious thoughts and pagan customs. Sir Walter Scott alludes to this connexion of the cross and well in Marmion, when he tells of “a little fountain cell” bearing the legend:—
weary pilgrim, drink and pray
For the kind soul of Sybil Grey,
Who built this cross and well.
“In the corner of a field on the Billington Hall Farm, just outside the parish of Haughton, there lies the base, with a portion of the shaft, of a fourteenth-century wayside cross. It stands within ten feet of an old disused lane leading from Billington to Bradley. Common report pronounced it to be an old font. Report states that it was said to be a stone dropped out of a cart as the stones from Billington Chapel were being conveyed to Bradley to be used in building its churchyard wall. A superstitious veneration has always attached to it. A former owner of the property wrote as follows: ’The late Mr. Jackson, who was a very superstitious man, once told me that a former tenant of the farm, whilst ploughing the field, pulled up the stone, and the same day his team of wagon-horses was all drowned. He then put it into the same place again, and all went on right; and that he himself would not have it disturbed upon any account.’ A similar legend is attached to another cross. Cross Llywydd, near Raglan, called The White Cross, which is still complete, and has evidently been whitewashed, was moved by a man from its base at some cross-roads to his garden. From that time he had no luck and all his animals died. He attributed this to his sacrilegious act and removed it to a piece of waste ground. The next owner afterwards enclosed the waste with the cross standing in it.
“The Haughton Cross is only a fragment—almost precisely similar to a fragment at Butleigh, in Somerset, of early fourteenth-century date. The remaining part is clearly the top stone of the base, measuring 2 ft. 11/2 in. square by 1 ft. 6 in.