High Cross, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SJ 492 126

Also Known as:

  1. Butter Cross
  2. The Cross

Archaeology & History

This long-lost medieval ornamented cross, found not far from the legendary Grope Cunt Lane (I kid you not) was located close to the middle of old Shrewsbury town, “at the junction of Pride Hill, Castle St and St. Mary’s St,” according to the 1902 OS-map of the region.

Although Shrewsbury’s High Cross is believed to have been built in the 12th or 13th century, we don’t know for sure when it was first erected — and indeed, written records of the place don’t appear to begin until the year 1557, where it was described as the ‘Hye Crosse.’  A few years later in the Parish Registers for the Lichfield diocese, dated 1590, the monument was mentioned again as ‘the Highe Crosse'; and subsequent accounts of it are found in various local history accounts from 1695 to 1799.

The site was named as the Butter Cross in street-name listings of 1804, telling it as a site where this food was sold and we know that the High Cross was the centre of a local market and social gathering place in previous centuries.  Gelling (2004) told that “the medieval cross was taken down in 1705, but the name continued to be applied to structures which replaced it, and which were used as a market place for dairy produce.”

In earlier times, the High Cross is said in legend to have been where executions were enacted.  Alfred Rimmer (1875) narrates the oft-told tale of those who died here, saying:

“The High Cross of Shrewsbury has long been destroyed, but its place is pointed out in old documents.  Unhappily, it is not connected with pleasant associations, for before it the last of the British princes, David, a brother of Llewellyn, was cruelly put to death by Edward I; and at a later period many of the nobility who were taken at the battle of Shrewsbury were there executed, the High Cross being considered the most appropriate place for such a spectacle.”

The prince that Rimmer mentions was Dafydd III, the last prince of Wales, executed in the year 1283.

References:

Gelling, Margaret, The Place-Names of Shropshire – volume 4, EPNS: Nottingham 2004.
Hobbs, J.L., Shrewsbury Street Names, Wilding & Son: Shrewsbury 1954.
Rimmer, Alfred, Ancient Stone Crosses of England, Virtue: London 1875.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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2 Responses to High Cross, Shrewsbury, Shropshire

  1. sunbright57 says:

    Grope Cunt Lane I wouldn’t like to live down there !!

  2. Jo Woolf says:

    I was born in Shrewsbury and worked there for 10 years, in an office just off St Mary’s Street; I knew about the executions but I didn’t know the history of the Butter Cross. I’m also familiar with Grope Lane although I didn’t know its original name! A very interesting post.

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