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THE STORY OF MANCHESTER CROSS.
BY G. H. ROWBOTHAM.
The simple folk once used to throng
N pre-Reformation days and throughout Europe no
IN more familiar to every man, woman,
and child than the market cross. Each city and town. possessed one or more, and in the remotest villages they were to be found. In certain of the greater cities of the Continent-Nuremberg, for example-they remain to this day, and, all sentiment apart, are valuable and highly interesting, viewed simply as works of art. In our own country, too, many fine specimens still exist, though these do not always occupy the original site, as, for instance, at Bristol, the High Cross of which was taken down and re-erected at Stourhead as long ago as 1766.
The majority have, however, entirely disappeared, and amongst them must regretfully be included our Market Cross of Manchester, or THE CROSS, as it was generally styled in ancient days. When the original structure was
erected, or what it was like, I am afraid we shall never know and it were idle to conjecture, but this much is certain, that the original mediæval cross was standing (though sadly dilapidated through time and neglect) as late as the year 1680, and the following brief notes, culled chiefly from the Manchester Court Leet Records, will serve to record the history of its declining years.
The exact site, as nearly as may be defined, was at the eastern end of the oblong space occupied at one time by the Old Shambles, in the Market Place, where is now the principal entrance to the Coal Exchange, and right opposite to the Bull's Head Inn. In close proximity stood the old tollbooth or courthouse, the stocks, gibbet, and cage, and round about this curiously assorted quintette revolved for centuries the busy life of the infant Cottonopolis. A very picturesque corner must this have been in the olden days, with clusters of carved and painted gables nodding to each other on every side of the little market place, which on market days must have fairly hummed with its crowd of eager chafferers in "victuals, points, laces, incles, & other smallwares." A small bell fixed in the gable of the wooden tollbooth gave forth the hour of opening and closing of the market, and woe be to him or her who bought or sold outside the authorised hours. One old timbered house still stands at the corner of the Old Shambles and the Market Place, sturdy still, and but little changed outwardly since its erection three or four hundred years ago.
Under date December 11th, 1554, the jury (of the Court Leet) direct the attention of the scavengers to the state of the public thoroughfare "betwyx the coundyth (conduit) and the Crosse in Market Sted lanne." Unless old Market Sted Lane included that portion of the