Home Town Centre Nature Footpaths Sports Education Churches
Wine & Dine Shops Fast Food Area History Letters

From: 'History of Sandbach and District ' by R. W. Tomlinson 1899


The Ancient Crosses.

To the west of the St. Mary's Church is the Market Place, containing the Crosses of Sandbach, which may indisputably be ranked amongst the finest monuments of antiquity of this kind now existing in the Kingdom. The period when these Crosses were erected is uncertain, but in some instances it is supposed that they were erected about the year A.D 653, when Peada, (King Penda's son), returned a Christian convert from Northumbria to Mercia, attended, according to Bede, by four Priests, who were deputed to preach the Gospel through his dominions. Bede, in his "Ecclesiastical History of the Nation of the Angles" states that the names of these Priests were Adda, Cedda, Betti and Diuma. They are supposed to have preached at Sandbach, and to have baptized Peada and the members of his Court, on the spot where the Crosses now stand. Some Historians tell us, that Peada desiring to mark such an event, erected the now notable Sandbach Crosses. Taking this to be the true account of the circumstances of their erection, and it seems most likely, having the sanction of Omerod, Palmer, Bimmer and others, they would be erected about A.D. 653. It appears from Smith's Account of Sandbach in "Vale Royale" that these Crosses were standing in the reign of Elizabeth, and had of course been saved from the violence of Reformation. Whether they were thrown down by the Puritans, acting under the orders of Elizabeth against superstitious images, or during the civil disturbances in the reign of Charles the First, does not appear, but it is certain that they did not remain in a perfect state after this second period. The substructure consists of a platform of two steps, on which are placed two sockets, in which the Crosses are fixed. At the angle of each stage of the platform are stone posts on which rude figures have been carved.
The dimensions of the monument according to Mr. Palmer of Manchester are as follows:

Height of Platform including Sockets, 5ft. 6in.
. . . Greater Cross.................16ft. 8in.
. . . Smaller Cross............... 11ft. 11in.
Greatest height from ground............22ft. 2in.

The proportions of the several parts of the Crosses and substructure are as follows, being taken from accurate details and measurments made by Mr. Palmer, when the Crosses were laid upon the ground in 1816

Height of each step of platform, 1ft. 6in
. . . . Sockets...................2ft. 6in.
Diameter of Large Socket at base 5ft. 9in.
. . . Smaller . . . . . . . . . . 4ft. 6in. by 3ft. 9in.

LARGER CROSS: Height of Pillar 15ft. 10in; 10in. of the circular top only remaining, but this appears to have been 3ft. in diameter. Breadth at base 2ft. 7in. by 1ft. 10in. on the South side and 2ft. on the North, at top 1ft. 2in. by 10in.

SMALLER CROSS: Height of pillar, 10ft. 9in., and of the broken top, 1ft. 2in. The deficiency of the pillar and the diameter of the top cannot be exactly calculated. Breadth at base, 2ft. 1 1/2in. by 1ft. 8 1/2in., and at the highest perfect part 1ft. 6in. by 1ft.

LARGER CROSS: The frame work in which the figures on each side of this Cross are included, divides near the base and becomes forked, like the termination of an ancient pennon, in the angles of which, on the East Side are figures of Cherubs looking upward. Immediately above the division is a large circle containing three figures, to the centre one of which the others appear to be paying obeisance. Over the circle are three other figures, the centre one in this group appears to bear something like an infant in its arms, on its left is a figure with a palm branch in its left arm and a dove over its head; while on its right is a similiar figure with a cross over its head and a book in its hand. After a short deficiency there appears a clear representation of our Saviour in the Manger, with animals on each side, and an angel hovering over Him. Above this is a Crucifix with Christ attached to it, some of His disciples (or, according to Cole's conjecture, the Virgin and St. John) standing at the base, and the four angles of the Cross are filled up with the symbols of the four evangelists, viz., an angel for St. Matthew; a lion for St. Mark; a bull for St. Luke; and an eagle for St. John. Above this are various mutilated figures, some of which are in niches and one is inverted. The lowest of these are conjectured by Cole to be God, the Father, sitting on a throne with the Blessed Virgin, and her babe before Him. Still higher up are implements of the passion, hammer, pincers, etc., and at the top are figures of men, much mutilated.

The West Side has been divided into eight double compartments. The first part is filled by dragons, whose wings and other members are complicated in a most fanciful manner. In the second compartment are mutilated repesentations of winged figures. In the third a winged and a sitting figure, probably representing the apparition of the Archangel Gabriel to Zachariah in tbe Temple. In the fourth is represented Simon, bearing the Cross, preceded by a figure holding a curved wand, while in the fifth is our Saviour marked by the glory round His head drawn along by a person holding a rope, with one end of which the hands of Christ are bound. The sixth compartment is entirely destroyed, and the two remaining ones are too much mutilated to be described.

The South Side is filled up with foliage, knots and fancy ornaments, but no particular meaning can be attached to these. In the midst is a man, thought to represent John the Baptist,. in the wilderness.

The North Side appears to have contained eleven figures, over which is a large fish, mouth downwards, with a tongue triply cloven. The highest figure is bending under the tongue in the act of adoration, and the next is eagerly stretching upwards. It ia difficult to account for these figures, otherwise than by supposing them to be the eleven original apostles, on whom, together with the newly-elected one, the Spirit descended in the form of cloven tongues of fire, St. Matthias being purposely omitted. There is a peculiarity about the carvings on this side not observable elsewhere. The figures are placed in cells, in a double row from the bottom, the division on which each stands being cut off at one hand so as not to touch the sides, leaving an uninterrupted communication between the whole.

SMALLER CROSS: The smaller Cross has a variety of human figures placed within niches and lozenges (diamond- shaped compartments) on the east and west side and others within niches on the north and south sides, placed in a border of knots. While the larger Cross seems to be carved with Scriptural Subjects, tbe smaller Cross carvings represents characters of a Secular nature.

On the North Side appears to be represented the journey of Peada (King Penda's Son) from Mercia to Northumberland, with all his nobility and attendants to solicit the hand of King Oswy's daughter, Alchfleda. At the top is a double dragon with the tongues skillfully interlaced.

The South and East Sides are exceedingly curious, they are filled up with figures of men and animals in cells and diamond shaped compartments. There is great doubt as to the interpretation of these sides.

On the West side are groups of figures, some kneeling and some standing. This is believed to represent the conversion of Peada King of Mercia and his Court into the Christian religion. Omerod has it that the 12 figures on the North side have a marked resemblance to the eleven on the larger Cross, while on the West is a group of three persons apparently intended to represent the Three Persons in the Trinity.

Both Crosses have terminated in ornamental circular or elliptical tops, round which other figures have been carved with their heads toward the centre, and their feet toward the exterior. This part of the small cross seems to have been pierced in such a manner as to give to the head the appearance of a cross not unlike the Maltese in form.

We have it on the authority of Kings' " Vale Royal" that the following lines are engraved on the small Cross "which could not be read unless a man be held with his head downwards."

"In Sanbache, in the Sandy Ford
Lieth the ninth part of Dublin's lord;
Nine to, and nine fro',
Take me down, or else I fall."

It is also stated. that on the same monument the following lines are engraved in old English letters:

"With awful steps approach this shrine,
Sacred to Druid erst divine;
Here ancient Virtue still preserve,
Nor ever from its precepts swerve."

It is almost impossible to trace either of the above inscriptions now.

RESTORATION OF THE CROSSES

Towards the latter end of the 17th Century the central part of the large Cross and some fragments of the other were carried by Sir John Crewe (or by his orders) to Utkinton, and set up as an ornament to the place, the figure of our Saviour, which he considered a relic of Popery, being carefully covered over with hard mortar. On the death of Sir John Crewe these fragments were removed to Tarporley where Cole saw them and made drawiugs, which are now to be found with his other M.S.S. in the British Museum. Later, these stones were found to be deposited at Oulton Park and about this time regret was expressed in certain quarters that the monument of the piety of our Saxon ancestors should be suffered to remain in a state of mutilation. A very few months elapsed before George Omerod Esq. was requested by the town of Sandbach to undertake the superintendence of their Restoration and he had the pleasure of seeing this effected in a most satisfactory manner, whether considered with reference to the voluntary exertions of the inhabitants in collecting the scattered fragments and contributing the means of their Restoration, or to tlie good taste and genuine liberality of Sir J. G. Egerton in restoring those larger portions, which had consituted a unique ornament of his park at Oulton.

Omerod, in his history of Cheshire, states that the lower parts of the large Cross were found in the walls of the Town Well, which were taken down for this purpose, a small portion of them having been previously discovered there by Messrs. Lysons. The two next large fragments came from Oulton. The higher parts were found at Sandbach, the most important of them, viz., the termination of the pillar, united to the fragments of the circular top, was dug out of a garden near the Market Place. The lowest fragment of the small Cross escaped the fate of the rest, and was the only part standing in 1816. The second was brought from Oulton, whilst the highest fragment was found plaeed in the pavement of the principal street. Another stone was found to be doing duty as the door step of a house near the Town Well. A few portions had disappeared shortly before, and one large fragment is known to lie under the foundations of a house in Sandbach, this is supposed by some to be the present Liberal Club. The re-erection of the Crosses was effected in September of 1816 by Mr. John Palmer, Architect of Manchester, whose liberality on the occasion as well as his scientific arrangement cannot be too highly commended. All attempts at restoration were directed to be religiously abstained from, and the chasms were filled with plain stone, matching as nearly as possible, the colour of the original.

Omerod states "The enthuaiasm which the re-erection ef the Crosses excited among the lower orders was excessive, and a concourse of people poured in from distant Townships. On some days the crowd was sufficiently great in the Market Place to interrupt the operations of the workmen."

The Restoration fund was raised partly by subscriptions. The amount of subscriptions reached 19 5s. 0d. and as the total cost of collecting the scattered parts and of re-erecting the Crosses was 37 5s. 4d., it is supposed that the balance of 18 0s. 4. came out of the rates.

THE OLD HALL

This is a large handsome black and white building of timber and plaster, finished in the Elizabethan style, with gables, and was erected about the middle of the 17th Century. It stands opposite the south wall of the Parish Church, and is well elevated. It occupies the site of the ancient mansion of the Sandbaches, Its position appears to have been selected with a view to the strength that might be desirable in a castellated Manor-house. Very little, however, seems to be known of its past history, At one time it served as the Parsonage, and in the year 1845, a portion of the Hall was licensed as an Hotel, while the other part was divided into small tenements. It has at different times been thoroughly repaired, and now the whole of the building is used as an Hotel. In 1887, the late Lord Crewe spent something like 1,000 upon the building. It may he interesting to note that the late Charles Ford, Esq. of Abbey Fields, Sandbach, was born at the Hall. On one side of the building, there is the following inscription:- "T.B. 1656."

Omerod mentions the Hall in his history and I give his statement because it is especially interesting:-

" Margaret, who was the wife of John de Radclyf, of Ordesdal, Knight, held inter alia (among other things), the manor of Sondebache, of Thos. de Stanley, as aforesaid, and which Inq. (enquiry) finds that there were on the same manor one Hall, two chambers, one chapel, one stable, and one kitchen (of no value); 48 messuages, 500 acres of land, and 40 of meadow (of the yearly value of 39 marks), 40 of wood, 100 of moss (yearly value 20s. 3d.), 3 ponds (yearly value 3s.), one water mill (yearly value 4 marks, and 13s. 10d. rent. Total value p.a. of the whole manor, 30 10s. 2d. Died on the Sat. next before the Feast of S. Bartholomew last; .John, son of John de Ratclyf, son and heir, aged 50 year, who in his livery, Sept. 2nd, same year (1627) is stated to be then a Knight." Unfortunately there are no direct descendants of this family so far as is known, though in all probability the family continued for some decades after the Legh and Radclyf intermarriages.

In the interior of the Hall may be found some excellent old carvings and panellings in oak, and the visitor to Sandbach will do well to pay a call, and. I am sure that Mr. John Bebbington, the present host, will be delighted to "show them round."

THE BLACK BEAR INN

situated in the Market Place, is also an old picturesque black and white building, very similar to the Old Hall, but on a much smaller scale. It bears the date 1634.

Home Town Centre Nature Footpaths Sports Education Churches
Wine & Dine Shops Fast Food Area History Letters