NGR: SD 8651 3612. Some time long ago a Medieval wayside cross known as ‘The Marsden Cross’ or at least the base of that former cross, used to stand at the side of Kings Causeway, Marsden Heights, near Nelson, Lancashire, roughly where the entrance to Nelson Golf Course Club House is today; the golf course was established in 1902. However, the cross base was moved or re-sited a little way along the road possibly in the 19th century? The large, hefty socket stone (cross-base) now resides in a private cottage garden – the former Scarlett Arms public house – a few hundred metres along the road, which is known as Kings Causeway or ‘The King’s Highway’. General James Yorke Scarlett (1799-1871) led the Charge of the Heavy Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava, Crimea in 1854, and is buried in St John’s churchyard, Holme-in-Cliviger. Kings Causeaway was apparently named after King George (not sure which King George) who had travelled along it, a local lady told me. The stone base that supported the cross shaft was placed in the garden of The Scarlett Arms back in the 19th century – having been moved here from its original position further back along the road. It is marked on an old map of 1893 simply as “stone”. But, what actually became of the cross-shaft and its cross-head, if those ever existed, is not known, though it was probably destroyed, broken up, and then Lost-to-Time. Maybe the remains of the cross and shaft are built into a wall or a building somewhere in the vicinity.
The large, hefty lump of stone in the garden of Scarlett Cottage – the former Scarlett Arms public house – on Kings Causeway stands between two and three feet tall, and at the top of the stone a basin-shaped socket hole has been carved with a groove (water channel) to allow water to run out of the basin at one side; however, the basin (the possible socket hole) is not particularly deep. The lady who lives at the cottage uses the top of the stone as a receptacle for lost golf balls that come over from the golf course, or, she has collected some of them from the vicinity. So, was a cross shaft ever fixed into the top of this lump of stone? At the other side of the stone a groove runs part way up; the lady at the cottage thought this had been caused when the stone was moved a few metres from its original position at the lower end of her garden, some years back. Another theory is that the basin in the top of the stone was used as a receptacle for vinegar hundreds of years ago during times of plague; coins would be placed in the vinegar so as to sterilise them before they were handed out to those infected by the dreadful disease and, also maybe the poor of the parish: Haggate and Harle Syke. There are two more wayside cross bases, similar to this one, called The Nogworth and Beth Crosses, near Briercliffe, which date from the 13th century, and were set up by the monks of Whalley Abbey (marking the extent of their lands); this may also be the case with the Marsden Cross.
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Many thanks to the lady at Scarlett Cottage for allowing me to photograph the cross base, and to the lady who informed me with regard to the history of Kings Causeway.
Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.