Stories and legends have clustered around them. There is the famous Stump Cross in Cheshire, the subject of one of Nixon’s prophecies. It is supposed to be sinking into the ground. When it reaches the level of the earth the end of the world will come. A romantic story is associated with Mab’s Cross, in Wigan, Lancashire. Sir William Bradshaigh was a great warrior, and went crusading for ten years, leaving his beautiful wife, Mabel, alone at Haigh Hall. A dastard Welsh knight compelled her to marry him, telling her that her husband was dead, and treated her cruelly; but Sir William came back to the hall disguised as a palmer. Mabel, seeing in him some resemblance to her former husband, wept sore, and was beaten by the Welshman. Sir William made himself known to his tenants, and raising a troop, marched to the hall. The Welsh knight fled, but Sir William followed him and slew him at Newton, for which act he was outlawed a year and a day. The lady was enjoined by her confessor to do penance by going once a week, bare-footed and bare-legged, to a cross near Wigan, two miles from the hall, and it is called Mab’s Cross to this day. You can see in Wigan Church the monument of Sir William and his lady, which tells this sad story, and also the cross—at least, all that remains of it—the steps, a pedestal, and part of the shaft—in Standisgate, “to witness if I lie.” It is true that Sir William was born ten years after the last of the crusades had ended; but what does that matter? He was probably fighting for his king, Edward II, against the Scots, or he was languishing a prisoner in some dungeon. There was plenty of fighting in those days for those who loved it, and where was the Englishman then who did not love to fight for his king and country, or seek for martial glory in other lands, if an ungrateful country did not provide him with enough work for his good sword and ponderous lance?
Such are some of the stories that cluster round these crosses. It is a sad pity that so many should have been allowed to disappear. More have fallen owing to the indifference and apathy of the people of England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than to the wanton and iconoclastic destruction of the Puritans. They are holy relics of primitive Christianity. On the lonely mountainsides the tired traveller found in them a guide and friend, a director of his ways and an uplifter of his soul. In the busy market-place they reminded the trader of the sacredness of bargains and of the duty of honest dealing. Holy truths were proclaimed from their steps. They connected by a close and visible bond religious duties with daily life; and not only as objects of antiquarian interest, but as memorials of the religious feelings, habits, and customs of our forefathers, are they worthy of careful preservation.
STOCKS, WHIPPING-POSTS, AND OLD-TIME PUNISHMENTS