Cross, Stocks, Mill and School





      The ancient cross of Warburton village, the base of which is still in situ, was, according to Newton, destroyed during the Civil War by the Puritans "as of dangerous consequences and inconsistent with our purified religion".

      Little or no material evidence of its design exists. Its origin and intent is speculative and could well be among the many and various forms erected in ancient days for equally as many purposes.

      From the days of Constantine (A.D. 312), when the cross began to be set up in public places and on buildings, the design and significance has become most varied, although all bore a common origin in Christianity. There were, for example, the preaching crosses which were generally erected in the centre of a community or town and used (as the name indicates) as a gathering symbol for the propagation of Christianity; the memorial cross which, in all ages of the Christian era, has been a means of expressing regret for the dead; the sanctuary or boundary cross marked off church lands and showed the people on their way to church where to kneel when they were entering sacred ground; roadside and crossroad crosses also indicated a sanctified resting place for funerals, or the site of a holy well. Preaching crosses, in many instances, also took on the role of the market cross to the town or village which had been granted a Charter for the purpose of holding a trading fair, but since Warburton did not hold such a permit, the use of its cross could not come within this category.

      But the village cross did in fact graduate throughout the years into the focal point for meetings and the local trade of merchants and farmers. This would be particularly so in time of Plague. The exchange of money was made by placing on the steps of the cross a basin or bowl containing vinegar or water, into which the money was thrown. This may well have taken place in Warburton when the neighbouring town of Lymm was attacked by Plague in August, 1652, and again in March, 1653, when 175 persons perished.

      The search for the origin and purpose of Warburton Cross, apart from its historical importance as an integral part of the village life, was made more interesting by the existence of an engraving purporting to be that of the cross before its destruction. This illustration had been in the possession of the Liverpool Warburton family for many years. There is no evidence or record of restoration of the cross following the Commonwealth period, and as the figures in the illustration suggest the 19th century, the authenticity of the picture was subject to considerable doubt. One source of enquiry attributed the work to an unknown artist who had sketched the village cross of Werberg, Bavaria, and sold it later as Warburton Cross. It seemed, however, very improbable that the artist would go to so much trouble and expense for so little financial reward.

      The illustration shows the cross in a different position to its present position, but this may be explained by the fact that it stands at the original junction of the old main road and the road to the Mersey ford.

      The stocks now situated at the base of the cross do not appear in the picture. They were placed in their present position and restored c.1900 by Mr. Barff. Prior to this, one stone was built into a cottage wall on the Green.

      The tower of the church which appears in the background, is not only at the opposite end of the building to the actual church, but also supports a small sanctus belfry, or dovecote; yet no trace of this has yet been found on the actual building.

      In the print, the tower is castellated, whereas the actual tower has six sugarloaf pinnacles (originally there were eight).

      This, however, was not sufficient to suggest it did not at one time exist as illustrated, although no evidence from the records has come to light, but it did give rise to the conjecture that the setting of the cross was subjected to considerable artistic imagination, particularly as the church had been completely turned about for the artist's purpose!

      Archaeologically, little can be made of the picture because it does not show very clearly the form of moulding at the base, and its chamfering or fluting, but the proportions of the shaft suggest the 13th-14th centuries, while the cubical cap with knobbed finial would be a good deal later - probably the 17th century. This, according to another authority, substantiated the view that the print was only an artistic impression of what the cross may have looked like before its destruction, although, it is observed, as the cross (according to the picture) does not show any sacred signs it is probable it was spared destruction.

      On the other hand, a county archivist of Yorkshire, suggested that the legend "Warburton Cross" may infer not that the monument stood in a village called Warburton, but that it was called "Warburton Cross" because of some traditional connection with the Warburton family!

      With these many suggestions and theories expressed by various people, the search may well have been abandoned had it not been for the discovery, among the church documents, of an identical picture. The legend "Warburton Cross" had been struck through in feint pencil and the word "False" written above. On the left-hand corner was written "East Hagbourne, Didcott". Obviously another (probably the Rev. G. Egerton-Warburton) had been similarly engaged and had met with greater success.

      It was, however, sufficient inspiration for the search to continue.

      East Hagbourne is a small village situated near Didcot in the rural district of Wallingford, Berkshire. With the assistance of the Clerk to the Council, it was possible to establish the cross as that of East Hagbourne and further, to identify the site from which the artist created his picture. As a matter of interest, a further picture is to be found hanging in the smokeroom of the local inn, and the legend has always confounded the patrons!

      The only inaccuracy between the illustration and East Hagbourne Church is the omission of the North-East turret on the tower. The following is an extract from Murray's Architectural Guide: " ...at the west end of East Hagbourne street is a restored 15th century Cross with Jacobean dial on top and beyond it the Church. This embodies 14th and 15th century additions to all four sides of a small 14th century chapel".

      Warburton may never know for certain the precise design or appearance of its ancient cross, but it is gratifying, in the interest of truth, to know that a false claim has been avoided, albeit the lengthy and tedious research involved and the cross "restored" to the rightful owners!


      Warburton stocks are of great antiquity, although the timbers were supplied (1900) at the time of reconstruction. The stone was quarried either at Lymm or the quarry behind Oughtrington Hall, which also provided the stone for the rebuilding of Lymm Church.

      On the South post of the stocks are "scars" which indicate that hand clasps were once fitted and used for whipping purposes.

      When stocks were first introduced as a method of corrective punishment, is not clearly known. In 1376 the Commons pleaded Edward III for their establishment in every village.

      Frequently, one of the posts was also used as a whipping or "Rogues" post, which came into vogue about 1596. Prior to this, it was customary to use a cart tail.

      There are stocks in various states of disrepair to be found extant in the villages of Lymm, Partington and further afield at Grappenhall, High Leigh and Mobberley.

       Stocks were discontinued as official punishment in the early 19th century.


      Warburton Mill, now much modified and enlarged, is reputed to be on the site of one which existed in Saxon times and was certainly in being in the early 14th century. An early document reveals that an exchange took place between the Warburton family and Ada de Lymm for Ada's half share of "the Mill between Warburton and Lymm".


      In 1832 the old school was built at a cost of 160 and to this amount the Warburton charity was compensated by an annual payment of 3.16.0 from the church (which used the school on Sundays for religious instruction) and also the collections on Communion Sundays, although the latter appears to have been the custom since the inception of the charity in 1769. The school continued to function until 1872 (when the new building was erected at Moss Brow) and as a Sunday School until 1889, when the Parish Hall was built adjoining the new church in Bent Lane. The old school was later converted into a dwelling house.

      In 1875 the school fees were 2d. per week with the addition of "fire money" of 6d. per winter quarter for the purpose of heating the building. There was also an hour's night school for men and boys at the old school at a low fee of 1/2d. per night.