The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire

Happy New Year all! This year I’ll be concentrating on more maps of Liverpool and the surrounding area, with only a smattering of news when it suits. First up: a lovely little book from 1902, detailing one man’s niche interest…

Here’s a quiz question: how many churches on Merseyside can you name which have pre-mid16th century origins? The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor is a small hardback book and a catalogue of hundreds of ‘ancient’ (read: historic) crosses as they stood at the beginning of the 20th century. It also answers questions like the one above.

Extract from a map of ancient crosses in Lancashire
Extract from a map of ancient crosses in Lancashire

Its main feature is the countless number of entries describing all the crosses that Taylor has managed to scrape together evidence for. A lot of this evidence comes from old maps and place names, but also anecdotal evidence – such and such a reverend mentioned it in a letter, passed via the local publican’s brother. The catalogue is divided into parishes, and covers the whole of the Hundred of West Derby. No doubt this is one book from a multi-volume set, and covers just one part of Lancashire.

Cover of the book Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor
Cover of the book Ancient Crosses of Lancashire by Henry Taylor

Before he gets to the catalogue, though, he goes through a brief description of the area, describing the West Derby Hundred as almost a ‘peninsula’, bordered as it is on three sides: Irish Sea to the west, Mersey to the south and Ribble to the north. He also notes the number (twenty) of ancient parks in the Hundred, which fits in well with our view of Liverpool itself as being blessed with a lot of open space. Some of that land originated in parks (Croxteth, Toxteth) and some through other channels.

Some of the black and white illustrations from Ancient Crosses of Lancashire
Some of the black and white illustrations from Ancient Crosses of Lancashire

The book includes other little gems like a handful of black and white photos of crosses, a map of Liverpool (for a future post) and a giant fold-out map of the Hundred, reproduced here. There are also lists of pre 16th century churches and chapels, and a list of wells in the area. This is a book by a man who’s interest (and knowledge) of the topic of religious paraphernalia is impressive, and makes me wonder a little about how you could go about collating that information. If you see (or own) another book by a Edwardian gent by the name of Henry Taylor then do let me know, whether it’s about crosses or not! I’d love to have the time to become so knowledgeable these days, but I suspect it is a turn of the century thing.

If you’d like me to look up a cross in your area, let me know, and if you have any other questions about the book or the map, pop it in the comments below!

Until then – those pre-16th century churches in full:

St Mary, Prescot; All Saints, Childwall; St Michael, Huyton; St. Mary, Walton-on-the-Hill; St Nicholas, Liverpool; St. Helen, Sefton; SS. Peter and Paul, Ormskirk; St Cuthbert, North Meols. So that’s 8 by my count.

The full map of ancient crosses in Lancashire
The full map of ancient crosses in Lancashire

8 thoughts on “The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire

  • Ah, I grew up near a sandstone cross, completely unrelated to any church, in Rainhill. Lots of stories associated with it, the most plausible that it was where funerals halted on the way to ?Prescot church.

  • Peter Halsall says:

    I would be delighted to take you up on your offer of information about Hightown Cross. Most of these crosses had a pub alongside to provide the funeral procession with refreshments. An ancestor of mine, William Seddon was landlord of the pub that partnered Hightown Cross. I have a wonderful photograph of him at the time, which was late nineteenth century. If you have any info about the cross I would be delighted, but I am equally interested in the pub for obvious reasons. I live in hope!

      • Hi Martin

        Apologies for the slow response. I think the pub was an ‘ale house’, ie a cottage that was divided to use one room as a place for drinking. There were also games of skittles etc. I have a book about old Hightown which refers to it as the village inn.

        Ive also scoured those old maps to no avail!


        • Hi Pete, William Seddon was my Great Great Grandad, I found an article on ancestry about him being stabbed in his ‘beer house’ have you seen that? There is a fantastic photo him too. A google search of his name brought up this post, I am interested to know what else you have learnt?

  • Hi Jill.
    Always nice to discover a new relative. ‘Old’ Bill Seddon had a son by the same name who was the father of my grandmother, Elisabeth Seddon. What is your link?
    It was me that discovered the newspaper article and it was posted on Ancestry in a public tree titled ‘The Seddons of Ince Blundell’. That’s the best account of our Seddons.
    My Seddon grandmother lived next door to her future husband in Litherland. He was a Halsall. I have been working at writing up the history of both families until 1914 when they were neighbours. I’ve finished the Halsalls and started on the Seddons a few weeks ago. Shouldn’t take long as I’ve done all the research. I’ll mail you one when it’s done if you like .

  • The pub referred to earlier was located on ground now taken over by Our Lady of the Victories church. There was a Manweb substation on the precise spot, last I saw. He lived , in his latter years, in Rose Cottage which still stands on Sandy Lane.

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