Emmott Cross, Colne, Lancashire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 888 401

Also Known as:

  1. Touch Cross

Archaeology & History

The Emmott Cross

At the north side of St Bartholomew’s church-yard, Colne, stands the medieval Emmott Cross or Touch Cross. It was re-erected here in 1967 by local historian Mr Wilfred Spencer and a team of volunteers having being removed from the grounds of Emmott Hall, Laneshawbridge, when the old hall was being pulled down. The cross had stood for centuries close to the famous Hallown Well, both of which were highly venerated by pilgrims travelling between Whalley Abbey and Yorkshire. It appears that originally the cross had stood at the side of the Stanbury to Haworth road over Herders, close by Emmott.

The cross shaft stands 7 feet tall and is referred to as of the English Gothic style, probably 13th century. It stands in an octagonal socketed stone base which is 2 foot high and 4 foot square. Its slender octagonal shaft tapers away towards the top where there is a carved capital or corona – this may once have held a cross head or some other religious object. There used to be some faint lettering on the shaft but this has now worn away. A local historian Dr Whitaker described the lettering as “I.H.S.” along with the Greek omega symbol.

It was to all intent and purposes a preaching cross to which pilgrims would congregate and listen to the word of God and many would be baptised in the Hallown Well at the same time. In the penal times of the 16th century the cross was in great use, but by the 17th century it was being referred to as a “papist cross”.  During this period in history it suffered damage and the shaft broken in two places; the cross-head taken away and smashed. For safety reasons the cross-shaft was removed to Colne church-yard but returned to the grounds of Emmott Hall in 1728 when relative calm had returned.

The slender cross shaft and its hefty base are said to weigh about 2 tons and I have no doubt it does. It is now grade 11 listed.

Folklore

The name Touch Cross probably comes about in the sense that pilgrims touched the cross in the hope of a safe pilgrimage, or the name may be something to do with a troop of soldiers who were stationed at the hall in the past. They touched the stone too, but for different reasons – that they would live to fight another day in battle.

References:

Byrne, Clifford H., “A Survey of the Ancient Wayside Crosses in North East Lancashire,” unpublished manuscript, 1974.
Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.
Whitaker, Thomas Dunham, An History of the Original Parish of Whalley and Honor of Clitheroe, Nichols, Son & Bentley: London 1818.

© Ray Spencer, 2011

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About megalithix

Prehistorian and independent archaeological researcher, specializing in prehistoric rock art, Neolithic, Bronze Age & Iron Age sites, and the animistic cosmologies of pre-Christian & traditional cultures.
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