Friday, December 08, 2006

Lost: Two Mediaeval Crosses

In mediaeval times, long before American-style shopping malls had been established in most British towns, open-air markets played an important social function. These bustling squares, packed with complaining livestock, even more loudly complaining peasants and argumentative drunks, were meeting-places where the rural and urban communities could congregate, conduct their commerce and execute their punishments on a weekly basis.
Most took place in the shadows of market crosses, those in towns such as Poulton and Garstang still in evidence today.
Or rather they’re not still in evidence today as both crosses were replaced in Victorian times.

Garstang’s, shown in the photograph above, was rebuilt twice, the first occasion being in 1754. Regarding the eighteenth century substitute Henry Fishwick records in his ‘History of Garstang’: “I feel certain that the obelisks replaced the old crosses because of the strong feeling against Roman Catholics.”
No doubt you’re wondering what became of the genuine articles.
Well, as far as Poulton’s concerned, we don’t have a clue.
Regarding Garstang, however, Arthur Mee in his 1936 book ‘The King’s England’ offers us a possible hint when he describes Garstang as: “An old fashioned town with quaint and narrow streets… (with) a cross and a fragment of a cross near its new church.”
Unfortunately, on further investigation, whether Mee’s fragment was mediaeval or not, it certainly wasn’t Garstang’s original cross. Oddly enough that particular monument never actually stood in the town. Just south of Garstang lies Churchtown, known during the mediaeval period as Garstang-Churchtown because Saint Helen’s at the time was the parish church. As you might have gathered by now, here you can find the real McCoy.
Or rather you can’t find the real McCoy.
Churchtown’s cross, unfortunately, was also replaced during Victorian times. The current whereabouts of the original are unknown.
Not wanting to annoy the reader any further it might be best if we draw a line under the subject at this point.

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