Cross: OS Grid Reference – SD 92102 43175
Also Known as:
- Copy House Cross
Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the Dissenter’s Well. The cross stands right next to it!
Archaeology & History
This is one of two old stone crosses with the same name within a mile of each other (the other could be found in the walling along Warley Wise Lane). Included in Taylor’s (1906) stunning magnum opus on the wells and crosses of Lancashire, the site was mentioned in a boundary dispute in the year 1592. He told how a local man called Mr Carr said,
“John Parkinson, ‘of the age of ffour score and thirtiene year or thereabouts’ stated that Tom Cross and the Graystone were by credible report the boundaries, as well of Lancashire and Yorkshire, as of the manors of Colne and Cowling.”
Years later when Clifford Byrne (1974) surveyed the crosses of East Lancashire, he gave us more details about the site, saying:
“Tom Cross is built into the wall hard by Copy House Farm… At the foot of the Copy House Cross is a well, carved out of a solid block of stone. The water apparently trickles into the well from a spring at the back of the wall , and the overflow spills into the field. The top section of the cross is missing, probably it was vandalized at the time of the Reformation or some time afterwards. It appears that the well was used and probably laid down by the Congregational Church dissenters from the late 17th century. At that time, a law was passed, soon to be repealed, which decreed that every man should attend his Parish Church. This meant that those who wished freedom to practise religion in their own form had to firstly attend the Parish Church and then hold a meeting privately afterwards. At that time, and under those circumstances, it was obviously sensible to meet far away from the Parish Church, and apparently Tom Cross was chosen to meet this need. The children of the Dissenters would be privately baptised in this well at the foot of the monolith into which, a cross was deeply incised.
Tom Cross is mentioned in a lawsuit in the year 1592 and a map exists dated slightly earlier which shows another cross in the area on Greystone Moor near Blacko…”
Byrne suggested that the name ‘Tom Cross’ relates to a boundary cross, but this is not substantiated in local dialect or place-name surveys (who say nothing!). Instead, Joseph Wright (1905) gives us the possibility of Tom being simply, “a kind of rock”; although a variety of other associations relate it children’s games, customs and goblins. The word may derive from the Gaelic ‘tom’, relating to a mound, or clump, or knoll in the landscape (Watson 1926). I’d go for one of these misself. Makes sense.
- 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.
- Watson, W.J., The Celtic Placenames of Scotland, Edinburgh 1926.
- Wright, Joseph (ed.), English Dialect Dictionary – volume 6, Henry Frowde: Oxford 1905.
Acknowledegments: Big thanks to Chris Swales for guiding me to the site; and to the old Teddy Man, Danny Tiernan.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian
We had 2 cross stones like that in our village but they’ve both gone now – one knocked down by a car and, despite the council promising to do so, not repaired and replaces – the other was by the bus stop and I don’t know what happened to that – I used to sit on it to wait for the bus. Didn’t think they had religious significance though, although I don’t know much about them, despite being a life-long resident.