NGR: SJ 87931 45213. In the grassy graveyard of St Peter’s Minster on Glebe Street, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, are the remains of a Mercian cross-shaft on a stepped base, dating from the 10th century AD, although some historians think it might date from the 8th-9th century? The actual name and dedication of the Minster church is St Peter’s Ad Vincular (St Peter in Chains). There is visible decoration on the shaft of this preaching cross although it is now rather worn and weather-beaten, and there are cracks from previous damage. It is a Saxon cross, that is a certainty, the area itself being part of the Old Saxon Kingdom of Mercia; and the first church here (and indeed the cross) were of wood. This 7th Century church was probably associated with St Chad, bishop of Lichfield. The building that is now the minster was built in the 19th Century. The site can be reached from the centre of Stoke. Head west onto Glebe Street and a few hundred yards south of the town hall is St Peter’s Minster and its large graveyard; the cross stands on a stepped base behind modern iron railings.
The cross-shaft, without its cross-head if it ever had one, stands 4 feet high (1.3m) in a socketed stone upon a base of two chunky steps, which are probably of a 19th Century date, though the cross itself is probably 10th Century or a few hundred years before that. The monument is set within a paved surround. It is said to stand on, or near, the site of a wooden cross from which St Chad is said to have preached in the 7th Century. Sadly the shaft is quite worn with the carvings on one side being difficult to make out, but the front face has long vine scrolls and interlacing and, on the sides there looks to be some key-patterning, while the reverse side has a lot of knotwork and interlacing and, a series of holes that might have been done in recent times? The break across the middle of the shaft can clearly be seen but this does not detract from its great antiquity; the monument being carefully restored. At the base an inscription reads: ‘This fragment of a pre-Norman cross identified by Chas Lynam F.S.A. was re-erected near to its original position in the 25th year of the reign of H.M. King George V by P.W.L. Adams F.S.A.’ The cross-shaft is a Grade II listed monument.
There is a story or tale coming from St Peter’s Church that says the cross-shaft was discovered in 1876 by a gravedigger who spotted it being used as a door lintel inside the old church, which was being demolished to make way for a newer church building. During its recovery the shaft broke in two so it was placed in storage, but in 1935 it was formally identified by Mr Charles Lynam who had it restored and re-erected in the churchyard.
Doug Pickford (1994) tells us more about the site, saying: “At Stoke itself, meaning a fortified stockade, and the collective name so often (wrongly) given to this area there is the Church of St Peter and nearby is the base and trunk of an ancient preaching cross. Was this cross, I wonder, a stone monolith before it was used for preaching. Perhaps in earlier times it was used for praying to, not preaching from. Stoke was most probably a fortified place holding out from the old Britons who took refuge in the high Staffordshire moorlands.”
The very large Minster churchyard also has some re-erected stone arches from an earlier church; and amongst the many in-teresting graves there is the one of Josiah Wedgwood of Burslem and Etruria (1730-1795) the famous master potter; another of Josiah Spode of Stoke-on-Trent (1733-1797) who was also a famous pottery manufacturer, and the grave of Charles Bourne (1775-1836) the pottery manufacturer of Fenton. There is also a commemorative ceramic (mosaic) seat in the churchyard, which was installed in 2000.
The earliest origins of Stoke-upon-Trent go back to at least 800 AD, but probably further back to the 7th Century. It would seem the Saxon name was Stoiche or Stoche – a stockade, but there was no mention of the Church of Stoke in Domesday, though there was a brief mention of it in ‘The description of Caverswall’. The name and its probable meaning have been considered to be: ‘the place of the church’, ‘place by or next to a church’, or ‘settlement beside a church’; the latter name being the most likely. In St Peter’s Minster can be seen a baptismal font that was in use as a garden ornament. It is thought to be of Saxon origins. In 1932 it was restored and put back into use in the church. Also in St Peter’s there are a number of monuments and marble memorial tablets to the ‘great-and-the-good’ of Stoke-on-Trent’s pottery manufacturing history, which brought about, and shaped the Industrial Revolution in the Potteries of North Staffordshire.
Adrian Room (1993) adds more, saying: “This well-known city has a basic name derived from the Old English stoc (place), as considered for STOKE-BY- NAYLAND. It is more likely that the meaning here is ‘dependent settlement’, as there is no evi-dence for the latter sense. The addition of the river name distinguishes this Stoke from the hundreds of others. The name of this city, perhaps the best known example, was recorded as Stoche in the Domesday Book.”
The PastScape monument no is: 75813.
Sources & References:-
Pickford, Doug, Staffordshire — Its Magic & Mystery, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1994.
Room, Adrian, Dictionary Of Place-Names In The British Isles, Blitz Editions (Bookmart Limited), Enderby, Leicester, 1993.
© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.