Register of ancient monuments

Reference number 1009289

Abel Cross
Midgehole Road
Hebden Bridge


The monument is a sandstone wayside cross located near the edge of Shackleton Moor. It comprises the separated halves of a massive tapering socle or cross base, each housing a rectangular section shaft. The bevelled tops of the shafts indicate that there have never been cross-heads. This suggests that the cross is probably of post-medieval date. Currently, the halves of the socle are set c2m apart, slightly NW and SE of each other, with the vertical cut faces of each orientated SE. This indicates that one half must have been turned round and moved apart. As the SE example is less deeply embedded in the ground that the NW example, it is likely to have been the former.

The SE half of the socle has a maximum visible height of 87cm compared to the 69cm of the NW half. Its outer width along the top edge is 57cm while the same dimension on the NW example is 60cm. The inner width of both halves is 64cm which indicates that the socle was not of uniformly rectangular section but bowed out in the middle. The combined length of the socle would have been 152cm with the SE half measuring 69cm and the NW half 83cm. Both shafts are mortared into rectangular socket holes set 21cm from the outer edge of the socle and apparently also c21cm apart. The SE shaft is 99cm tall and has a base measurement of 34cm by 21cm while the NW shaft measures 114cm by 54cm by 28cm. The latter tapers towards the top to 30cm by 24cm and the former to 22cm by 16cm. The socle, though finely dressed and covered with tool marks, is undecorated except for a surveyor's bench mark inscribed near the southern corner of the SE half. Both leading faces of each shaft are inscribed with a Latin cross of two incised lines whose simplicity also suggests a post-medieval date. The cross is orientated SW-NE so that the incised crosses can be seen from either direction on the adjacent track. This suggests that the cross marked an ancient route across the moor, though it may also have served as a boundary marker.


Wayside crosses are one of several types of Christian cross erected during the medieval period, mostly from the 9th to 15th centuries AD. In addition to serving the function of reiterating and reinforcing the Christian faith amongst those who passed the cross and of reassuring the traveller, wayside crosses often fulfilled a role as waymarkers, especially in difficult and otherwise unmarked terrain. The crosses might be on regularly used routes linking ordinary settlements or on routes having a more specifically religious function, including those providing access to religious sites for parishioners and funeral processions, or marking long-distance routes frequented on pilgrimages.

Over 350 wayside crosses are known nationally, concentrated in south west England throughout Cornwall and on Dartmoor where they form the commonest type of stone cross. A small group also occurs on the North York Moors. Relatively few examples have been recorded elsewhere and these are generally confined to remote moorland locations.

Outside Cornwall almost all wayside crosses take the form of a 'Latin' cross, in which the cross-head itself is shaped within the projecting arms of an unenclosed cross. In Cornwall wayside crosses vary considerably in form and decoration. The commonest type includes a round, or 'wheel', head on the faces of which various forms of cross or related designs were carved in relief or incised, the spaces between the cross arms possibly pierced. The design was sometimes supplemented with a relief figure of Christ and the shaft might bear decorative panels and motifs. Less common forms in Cornwall include the 'Latin' cross and, much rarer, the simple slab with a low relief cross on both faces. Rare examples of wheel-head and slab-form crosses also occur within the North York Moors Group. Most wayside crosses have either a simple socketed base or show no evidence for a separate base at all.

Wayside crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval religious customs and sculptural traditions and to our knowledge of medieval routeways and settlement patterns. All wayside crosses which survive as earthfast monuments, except those which are extremely damaged and removed from their original locations, are considered worthy of protection.

Although no longer in one piece, Abel Cross is a good and well preserved example of a post-medieval wayside cross of the unusual type comprising a single base with two cross shafts.

Last Updated: 07/10/2004