Whether they were whitened or not, or whether they served as guide-posts or stations for prayer, it is well that they should be carefully preserved and restored as memorials of the faith of our forefathers, and for the purpose of raising the heart of the modern pilgrim to Christ, the Saviour of men.
When criminals sought refuge in ancient sanctuaries, such as Durham, Beverley, Ripon, Manchester, and other places which provided the privilege, having claimed sanctuary and been provided with a distinctive dress, they were allowed to wander within certain prescribed limits. At Beverley Minster the fugitive from justice could wander with no fear of capture to a distance extending a mile from the church in all directions. Richly carved crosses marked the limit of the sanctuary. A peculiar reverence for the cross protected the fugitives from violence if they kept within the bounds. In Cheshire, in the wild region of Delamere Forest, there are several ancient crosses erected for the convenience of travellers; and under their shadows they were safe from robbery and violence at the hands of outlaws, who always respected the reverence attached to these symbols of Christianity.
In wild moorland and desolate hills travellers often lost their way. Hence crosses were set up to guide them along the trackless heaths. They were as useful as sign-posts, and conveyed an additional lesson. You will find such crosses in the desolate country on the borderland of Yorkshire and Lancashire. They were usually placed on the summit of hills. In Buckinghamshire there are two crosses cut in the turf on a spur of the Chilterns, Whiteleaf and Bledlow crosses, which were probably marks for the direction of travellers through the wild and dangerous woodlands, though popular tradition connects them with the memorials of ancient battles between the Saxons and Danes.
From time out of mind crosses have been the rallying point for the discussion of urgent public affairs. It was so in London. Paul’s Cross was the constant meeting-place of the citizens of London whenever they were excited by oppressive laws, the troublesome competition of “foreigners,” or any attempt to interfere with their privileges and liberties. The meetings of the shire or hundred moots took place often at crosses, or other conspicuous or well-known objects. Hundreds were named after them, such as the hundred of Faircross in Berkshire, of Singlecross in Sussex, Normancross in Huntingdonshire, and Brothercross and Guiltcross, or Gyldecross, in Norfolk.