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Ancient Crosses of Sandbach

The two crosses situated in the Market Place of Sandbach are the most interesting monuments of their kind to be found in the whole of Cheshire. They consist of two upright pillars, each of which is fixed in a thick, heavy stone socket.

These sockets are placed on a wide platform of two steps having, at each of the angles, stone posts which have once been ornamented by carving but are now very defaced. The whole base is 5.5 feet high. The taller cross is over 16.5 feet high and had a circular top (missing) of about 3 feet in diameter.

The smaller cross is just under 12 feet in height - the exact original height is unknown.

Each of the four sides of the crosses is covered with sculptures but is is not easy to ascertain what these sculptures were intended to represent. However, it is certain that those on the taller cross represent Scriptural subjects, whilst those on the smaller cross are believed not to be entirely Scriptural but to represent some historical event which led to their erection.

The Great Cross shows the chief truths of Christianity depicting, apparently, on three of its sides, the story of John the Baptist in the Wilderness; the Annunciation; the Birth of our Lord and, probably, also the various scenes in His betrayal and trial terminating in His crucifixion and, possibly, also, in one of the now destroyed portions, the Resurrection.

The remaining side is devoted to depicting the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles.

The Small Cross, whilst also showing Scriptural subjects, may have been intended to illustrate some great fact of historical importance and it has been conjectured, with much probability, that it commemorates the return of Peada, son of Penda, King of Mercia, from Northumberland to Mercia. Peada had been on a visit to Oswy, King of Northumbria and, there, fell in love with Alchfleda, Oswy's daughter. He was allowed to marry her upon condition that he embraced the Christian religion. This he agreed to do and then returned to his own land, accompanied by four priests, to whom he had promised permission to preach the Gospel throughout his dominions.

The figures in the act of walking, shown on the southern side, may possibly depict his return, together with attendants, priests etc. from Northumbria. The sculptures on the eastern side possibly recorded some facts of interest now wholly lost.

If the above conjectures be adopted, then these two crosses most probably commemorate the introduction of Christianity in Mercia by Peada, which event, we are told, happened in the year 653.

The question arises: why were these crosses erected here? Was Sandbach the place where the doctrines of Christianity were first preached or was it here that some great assembly of the inhabitants of that kingdom took place where the great truths of Christianity were taught?

Alas, history is altogether silent on this point and, it is believed, that Sandbach must have been the scene of some event of great importance, to commemorate which, these two crosses were erected some 1,300 years ago!

These notes were paraphrased from a booklet by Eachus & Son Ltd., The Square, Sandbach.

Their information came from From Earwaker's History of Sandbach.

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Copyright ©1998 Martin Pickering
Version 1.1 updated on 3/5/99
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