Ancient Monuments

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Mabs Cross on Standishgate, 20m west of Mabs Cross School building

A Scheduled Monument in Wigan Central, Wigan

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Latitude: 53.5514 / 53°33'5"N

Longitude: -2.6274 / 2°37'38"W

OS Eastings: 358526.712

OS Northings: 406268.065

OS Grid: SD585062

Mapcode National: GBR BW2C.ZN

Mapcode Global: WH97R.MZ1T

Entry Name: Mabs Cross on Standishgate, 20m west of Mabs Cross School building

Scheduled Date: 1 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014719

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27583

County: Wigan

Electoral Ward/Division: Wigan Central

Built-Up Area: Wigan

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester

Church of England Parish: Wigan St Michael and All Angels

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool


The monument includes a cross base and part of the shaft which are set on a
plinth in front of the school building on Standishgate in Wigan. The cross was
moved from across the road in front of no 138 Standishgate during road
widening in 1921. The cross is one of a group of four medieval crosses which
functioned as waymarkers along the medieval route from Wigan to Chorley.
The remains of the cross rest on a plinth of modern slabs in a paved area
beside the road. Above this is a plinth of dressed gritstone 1m square and
0.57m high. The base block of gritstone is set askew on this plinth with the
leaded boreholes for steel clamps on both the plinth and the base showing that
this is the original arrangement. The base block measures 0.7m X 0.7m and is
0.4m high. The socket is 0.4m X 0.3m holding the shaft of which 0.72m remains.
This has chamfered edges.
The cross gets its name from the penance of Lady Mabel Bradshaigh in which she
used to walk barefooted to the cross from Haigh Hall to the north east. She
endowed a chantry in the church at Wigan in 1338. The cross is Listed
Grade II*.
The paving slabs and the surface of the pavement to the west, where they fall
within the protective margin, are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground
beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A standing cross is a free standing upright structure, usually of stone,
mostly erected during the medieval period (mid 10th to mid 16th centuries AD).
Standing crosses served a variety of functions. In churchyards they served as
stations for outdoor processions, particularly in the observance of Palm
Sunday. Elsewhere, standing crosses were used within settlements as places for
preaching, public proclamation and penance, as well as defining rights of
sanctuary. Standing crosses were also employed to mark boundaries between
parishes, property, or settlements. A few crosses were erected to commemorate
battles. Some crosses were linked to particular saints, whose support and
protection their presence would have helped to invoke. Crosses in market
places may have helped to validate transactions. After the Reformation, some
crosses continued in use as foci for municipal or borough ceremonies, for
example as places for official proclamations and announcements; some were the
scenes of games or recreational activity.
Standing crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have
numbered in excess of 12,000. However, their survival since the Reformation
has been variable, being much affected by local conditions, attitudes and
religious sentiment. In particular, many cross-heads were destroyed by
iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. Less than 2,000 medieval
standing crosses, with or without cross-heads, are now thought to exist. The
oldest and most basic form of standing cross is the monolith, a stone shaft
often set directly in the ground without a base. The most common form is the
stepped cross, in which the shaft is set in a socket stone and raised upon a
flight of steps; this type of cross remained current from the 11th to 12th
centuries until after the Reformation. Where the cross-head survives it may
take a variety of forms, from a lantern-like structure to a crucifix; the more
elaborate examples date from the 15th century. Much less common than stepped
crosses are spire-shaped crosses, often composed of three or four receding
stages with elaborate architectural decoration and/or sculptured figures; the
most famous of these include the Eleanor crosses, erected by Edward I at the
stopping places of the funeral cortege of his wife, who died in 1290. Also
uncommon are the preaching crosses which were built in public places from the
13th century, typically in the cemeteries of religious communities and
cathedrals, market places and wide thoroughfares; they include a stepped base,
buttresses supporting a vaulted canopy, in turn carrying either a shaft and
head or a pinnacled spire. Standing crosses contribute significantly to our
understanding of medieval customs, both secular and religious, and to our
knowledge of medieval parishes and settlement patterns. All crosses which
survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in or near their
original location, are considered worthy of protection.

Mabs Cross survives well and retains its eccentric plinth and base as well
as part of the shaft. It is one of a group of four medieval crosses intended
as waymarkers on the route between Wigan and Chorley. The other three are
closer to Standish. The crosses provide important evidence of the medieval
route and serve to remind us of medieval travellers and the importance of
religion in medieval life.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Porteus, T C , The Mabs Cross Legend, (1941)
Greater Manchester SMR, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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