This fragment of a cross head was found in the wall that surrounds the churchyard of St Mary’s, Prestwich. The wall is fairly recent in date, built around 1975 from stones found in the churchyard. This would indicate that the cross originates from a previous incarnation of the church. It was not unusual for ancient cross heads and shafts to be reused in the construction of newer churches as building material, or be discarded and buried within a churchyard.
The fragment is of the part of the upper arm of a free-armed cross. Other crosses from the Viking age have their arms connected by thin rings or thicker ‘wheels’, but this free armed style can be seen elsewhere in our area, for example at Bolton Parish Church. On examination a thick curving border can be seen on the edge of the fragment, as well as a very clear knot pattern on both sides of the cross head. The style of the cross places it within the Viking age, probably 9th or 10th century.
Today the cross head is displayed in the Church Inn, which is next door to St Mary’s church. It is in the care of the Prestwich Heritage Society and can be viewed in a glass cabinet within the inn. Both sides can be examined, because the cabinet is built into a wall, with one side facing a corridor and the other side into one of the inn’s rooms. On show with the cross head are a range of artifacts found locally, including some intriguing carved wooden figures and a holed stone, all found within the building.
Just inside the entrance door to the Church Inn is a very impressive sketch map of the Manchester to Ribchester Roman Road, which was originally drawn in 1843 and then redrawn in 1956 for the Radcliffe and District Literary and Scientific Society. This copy has the Church Inn marked on, as well as the places where the road can be seen most clearly.
While you are there, don’t forget to partake of the hospitality and buy some drinks or something to eat.
Site visited by A. and R. Bowden 2014
Parking: Park outside on the road in front of the Church Inn.
Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, Volume IX, Cheshire and Lancashire, Richard N. Bailey, 2010, British Academy, Oxford University Press