Cross: OS Grid Reference – SJ 901 769
Archaeology & History
Many churches strive to find evidence in the greater antiquity of their foundations than the industrial age; and even those whose origins are medieval hope to find much older roots. Such is the case with this Norman church, where just such an antiquity was found in the middle of the 19th century, embedded in the old walling where it had been encased many centuries before. Thought to have been carved around the 8th century, the design on the stone typifies much ‘Celtic’ art, as it tends to be called, such as are found all over northern England. As we can see here, the main feature is a series of curved and interlocking lines covering most of the rock face (sadly, no swastika occurs on this stone, but it’s common on many others of this period). The old vicar of the church — Harold Rogers — takes up the story:
“About the year 1841, when part of the chancel work was taken down, some fragments of curiously ornamented sandstone were discovered embedded in the masonry. They were carefully removed, put together, and placed in the churchyard where, protected from injury by a glass case, they may now be seen. The carved ornamentation on this ancient relic was probably executed about the 8th century, and it is conjectured that the stone formed part of a cross placed there by some early Saxon converts…to commemorate the spot where the gospel was first preached in this locality.”
A brass inscription attached to the encased carved stone informs the visitor the same information. The proximity of this early carved stone to the River Bollin and, very probably, an ancient ford crossing, implies the waters here were held as sacred in ancient days and hence the supplanting of the ornate carved cross at this position in the landscape.
Rogers, Harold W., Prestbury and its Ancient Church, Arthur Clownes: Macclesfield n.d. (c.1960)
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian