FOUR NINE CROSSES AND A STONE.
I have read of four old crosses at different locations around the Stonyhurst estate and have come across them on local walks. Apparently, pupils from the school used to visit each cross in an annual pilgrimage on Palm Sunday. I was keen to know more and maybe link the crosses myself. I phoned a recently retired Stonyhurst schoolmaster who was interested in the history of the school but he knew nothing of the four crosses’ pilgrimage. As it is now the summer holidays there is nobody at the school to ask further.
Internet searching gave me this – “In the countryside around Stonyhurst, 4 crosses are situated, and on 16th March 2008 (Palm Sunday), a pilgrimage was made from the College to all of them. This entailed a 5-mile walk that completely encircled the College, and showed off the wonderful countryside in a dramatic way. It is hoped to repeat the same next year, and even make it an annual event. Fr John Twist, Stonyhurst College Chaplain, led the group on an attractive circular walk,”
The Pinfold Cross is a memorial to a former servant at Stonyhurst College and fiddler, James Wells. It was erected in 1834 at Stockbridge after he died in a quarry accident. On the front is inscribed the legend, ‘WATCH FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY NOR HOUR.’ Above this is written, ‘OFT EVENINGS GLAD MAKE MORNINGS SAD’. On the left is ‘PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF JAMES WELLS’ and on the right, ‘DIED FEB. 12TH, 1834′.
Cross Gills Farm Cross is thought to have come from a church. An old wives’ tale records how a farmer had to replace the cross when his cattle died after he had thrown the original into the river.
Stonyhurst Park Cross stands above the River Hodder in the woods close to the former Jesuit preparatory school, Hodder Place. A new cross was fixed to the ancient base in 1910, and was blessed on 12 June 1910 by the Jesuit provincial, Father Sykes; the origin of the base is unknown.
Saint Paulinus Cross stands at Kemple End on Longridge Fell and is a listed monument believed to date from Anglo-Saxon times. It may well mark a spot at which Saint Paulinus of York preached.
Left to my own devices I started to plot a route but I came up with four more crosses on the 1:25,000 map.
One in a plantation high on the Stonyhurst estate I can find no information except it first appeared on maps in 1910. I went to look for it in early June.
Another on the village green In Hurst Green itself is Grade II listed – ‘The cross was possibly restored in the 19th century. It is in sandstone and has a base of three square steps. On the cross head is a roughly punched trefoil shape.’ Also on the village green are two more modern crosses, one for the Boer War and the other WW I & II.
This last Saturday was set fair and I was free in the afternoon to walk around the Stonyhurst estate visiting the now eight crosses. Parking during Covid19 has been difficult in popular walking areas and when I arrived Hurst Green was just about full. My start was delayed talking to a local resident about all things viral and the latest village gossip.
First stop was the village green where there the two obvious large modern crosses stand. The WW one on a roundabout and the Boer War memorial, Celtic design, on the green. But I could find no sign of the Grade II listed one on the west side of the green I even investigated the rockery stones of an adjacent garden. So that was a bad start, two out of three.
I was heading upstream to find a path branching up towards a conical hill with a cross clearly seen on its top. This is the Cross Gills Cross. Unfortunately, the field it was in was surrounded by an electrified fence with the public right of way on the wrong side. A bit of crawling had me through. [I’m sure if you ask permission at Cross Gills Farm up the lane they would allow you access] The carved base of the cross looks much older than the rest which corresponds to its history. There were great views of Pendle from up here. Having crossed the main road tracks wound into the immaculate cricket ground of the college with its C19th brick pavilion. I skirt the college by Hall Barn, Gardener’s Cottage and Woodfields to enter open countryside.
By the little stone bridge over a side stream I notice the base of a cross close to the river, this is not the Park Cross I was expecting. It is not marked on the modern 1:25,000 map but I later find is shown on the 1894 edition. So I now have a 9th cross of unknown origin.
Onwards through the woods with occasional glimpses of the Hodder. I have to pay attention as I’m looking for a side path leading up to Rydding’s Farm, it is not marked but I climb the hillside to a stile on the skyline. A good place to rest with a drink and snack. Whilst perched up here in the field below a man is training his black retriever to fetch. He has some sort of gun that goes off with a loud bang and shoots out a plastic ‘ball’ a considerable distance. The dog had no difficulty retrieving with a few whistle prompts from his master. All this no doubt trying to simulate a shot pheasant.
I now have to climb further towards Kemple End for the next cross. The footpath near the top enters an enclosure but fortunately I can go round the end of the wall into the field where the Paulinus Cross is found. It is a strange shaped weathered cross sitting in a large base. Legend says that St, Paulinus preached here during his Christian mission to Northern England around 619 – 633 AD. It is certainly a commanding situation with views over the Ribble Valley and further afield.
On a previous recce to the next cross, I’d ended up in the replanted forest which was extremely difficult to walk through. I’d spotted a short cut across a field avoiding the worst. Tonight the field was full of cows with their calves, I hesitated at the gate but reckoned I could go round the herd without disturbing them. It was only when I was halfway across I spotted the bull in amongst his ladies. I was quickly over the wall into the woods and only 100 yds to the hidden cross on its hillock. I wouldn’t think anybody has been here since my last visit. Somebody must know something of its history.
My escape track from last time was virtually obliterated by tall bracken and if I hadn’t known it was there I would have had problems. The track appeared and took me out – as far as the ford over the stream, last time I hopped across dry footed but today it was in flood. I spotted a nearby log bridge but that took some nerve and concentration to commit to its slippery surface.
I was on the home leg now, down the lane to Stonyhurst College lakes and up the long drag to the Virgin Mary Statue. At the top I noticed, I think for the first time, Cromwell’s Stone. According to tradition, Cromwell, on the way to the Battle of Preston in 1648 stood on this stone and described the mansion ahead of him as “the finest half-house in England” as at that time the building was incomplete. For more legends and history of Stonyhurst, this site is worth a read – https://lancashirepast.com/2018/03/11/stonyhurst-hall-and-college/
Hurst Green had returned to its peaceful self when I arrived back at my car about 7pm. I’d had a good 9-mile walk in grand Lancashire countryside, visited 8 crosses and a stone but it was still niggling me that I couldn’t find the listed cross on the green. As I drove away I spotted a lady tidying her rockery adjoining the green. An opportunity I couldn’t miss. Parked up I enquired of her about the cross. She was a little reticent at first but once I’d explained my pilgrimage she volunteered the fact that the cross was inside her neighbour’s garden and no they didn’t want people wandering in. We passed the time of day and as I was about to go she kindly said I could just about see it from her garden. And there was the Grade II Listed Cross hidden behind an Acer, a short cross on a large base. Can you see it?
OS GRID REFERENCES.
WWI/II Memorial. SD 6853 3792
Boer War Memorial. SD 6851 3793
Listed Cross. SD 6843 3791
Cross Gills Cross. SD 6955 3785
Cross base by the Hodder. SD 6998 3999
Park Cross. SD 6988 3998
Paulinus Cross. SD 6864 4044
Hidden Cross. SD 6717 3986
Pinfold Cross. SD 6825 3980
Cromwell’s Stone. SD 6834 3854