The Stone Cross
   
The Greasby stone cross is believed to have been a Christian cross of Norse ('Viking') design probably made around 900AD.  The design is believed to have been a cross within a circle, all inscribed into the upper part of a single sandstone block. (See images A, B and C of similar crosses found in Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  Although some of these crosses have inscribed words, there is no suggestion that the Greasby cross had words.)  This design is found only in Ireland and in the coastal areas of Wales, north-west England and south-west Scotland.  These are all areas strongly affected by Norse influence.


The Greasby stone cross was located at the eastern point (grid reference SJ25358721) of the triangle of land at the centre of the old village. This triangle of land is believed to have been the village green for a long period.  That location, today, is the car park of the Coach and Horses public house.  The boundaries are not an exact match, but are broadly similar.


The cross is thought to have been around 2.2 metres (7ft. 3in.) tall, the width and depth were 30cm (12in.) each and it would have weighed approximately 480kg (1060lb.).  [The average weight of dry sandstone is approximately 2440kg per cubic metre.]


It is likely that during the 18th century it was a 'hiring cross', where farm labourers would gather on a day in April to offer themselves for a year's contract work for farmers.  Hiring fairs fell into disrepute in the mid 19th century and were largely abandoned.
The cross may already have been broken into pieces some time before its removal around 1860.  This theory comes partly from the words of Brownbill (writing in 1928) "The remains of the ancient cross on the green .... were cleared away .... about that time [1860] ...."  (see Sources) and partly from the fact that the workers who cleared the remains left the 'stump' of the cross in place.  If this theory is correct, the cross could have been damaged by an impact from one of the heavy carts passing nearby carrying grain to Irby Mill or coal to Greasby houses.

Image D below shows a child standing on the stump remnant sometime between 1905 and 1915.  Image E is a detail from a postcard dated 1939, on which the stump is still visible.  Since then the remnant has gone, probably removed during road alterations in either 1960 or 1967.

There is some evidence to suggest that the pieces of sandstone from the main part of the cross (i.e. the remains which were removed around 1860, not the stump) were used to build a pigsty at Greasby Old Hall.  The pigsty was demolished in 1957 and the stones were used to build a boundary wall separating the Old Hall, with its outbuildings, from the Greasby by-pass (Frankby Road).  The design of the cross within its circle is still visible on two of the pieces of stone within the wall.  The circle has a diameter of 330mm (13in.).


The Iron Cross
The Greasby iron cross was erected in 1862 at the cost of John Ralph Shaw, the lord of the manor.  That date, 1862, and his Latinised initials, IRS, are cast onto the cross. [See footnote] .



The original location of the iron cross was Cross Gardens (see images F, G and H), near to where the stone cross had stood.  Sulley (see Sources) described this new location as "....the ancient watering place of the township...."  (this was most likely a well). 



The iron cross was removed (Brack - see Sources - states that the cross was removed by Hoylake UDC in "the early years" of the 20th century).  Shops were built on the land of Cross Gardens.  Today the businesses at numbers 84 and 86 Greasby Road occupy that land.  The cross was kept in the care of the council until it was placed in its present location (SJ25338716 in Mill Lane, facing Home Farm, see images I and J) in late 1945.



In 1970 a plaque was fitted to the base of the cross in memory of the late Councillor Victor Pickering.  The plaque states that the iron cross is a replica of the stone cross.  Comparing the iron cross with the stone pieces, believed to be from the stone cross, found in the boundary wall of the Old Hall outbuildings shows some similarities and some differences.  The inner dimension of the circle is the same, but the arms of the stone cross end where they meet the circle, whereas the arms of the iron cross extend beyond the circle by 13cm (6½ in.).



Footnote: -

John Ralph Shaw was born with the name John Ralph Nicholson, but changed his surname as a condition of inheriting his uncle's fortune in 1829.  (Much of this fortune had been created by the export of slaves from Africa to America and the West Indies by his uncle John Shaw, Mayor of Liverpool.  Slavery, and the 
transport of slaves, was banned by various pieces of British legislation between 1772 and 1811.)  John Ralph Shaw was the owner and lord of Greasby and some other areas locally.  He built Arrowe Hall in 1835 and in 1843 he bought the land which later formed Arrowe Park.



Sources:-

O'Neil J.T. - Greasby Village Crosses, Journal of the Merseyside Archaeology Society, vol 10, 2000

Sulley, Philip - Hundred of Wirral, 1889

Brownbill, John - West Kirby and Hilbre, 1928

Brack, Alan - The Wirral, 1980

www.comerford-sandstone.com.au



Key to Iron Cross images : -

F - photo c1925 showing (left) Cross Gardens and (right) the Coach & Horses public house

G - 2005 view of scene shown in image F

H - the iron cross inside Cross Gardens (the view is of the rear of the cross)

I - photo c1950 showing the iron cross in its present location in Mill Lane 

J - 2005 view of the iron cross

K - the wording on the plaque is : - 
"This plaque was affixed on 27th June 1970 by the people of Greasby in memory of Cllr. Victor Watson Pickerell J.P. who died 1st January 1969.   A zealous friend of Greasby and Councillor for 27 years at whose instance this 19th century replica of Greasby's ancient hiring cross was re-erected."








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