Monthly Archives: January 2014

Foldys Cross

south west side of Foldys Cross after restoration in 2009The Foldys Cross has been at the top of Lime Avenue since 1911. Latin words at the base ask us to “pray for the soul of John Foldys, chaplain, who caused this cross to be made – AD1520”.

It was cleaned and restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2009.

It has been the subject of much controversy since it was brought to Towneley by Charles Townley (1737-1805) around 1789. Why should this be?

One version of the story is that the cross marked the grave of a Catholic priest in St Peter’s churchyard but was destroyed by an anti-Catholic mob in 1789. Charles Townley (1737-1805), brought the remains to Towneley to preserve the memory of the Catholic priest. In 1911, the Council restored the cross to its original condition and re-sited it at the top of Lime Avenue.

In fact, much of the above story may be incorrect. For over 150 years, local historians have been arguing over why the cross was set up, why it was knocked down, why Charles Townley brought it to Towneley and what was the best way to restore it.

The earliest account comes from the diary of Ralph Thoresby, the Yorkshire antiquary, who visited Burnley in 1702. He wrote “after dinner, we rode through Burnley, where was another cross in the church-yard, but with the addition of a new stately cross erected above the steps”. [1] It is important to know that in mediaeval times crosses were not only used for memorials but also to indicate a marketplace. The market traders would stand on and around the steps. So the cross may have been set up as a market cross rather than to mark a grave.

The first account of the demolition of the cross comes from Thomas Dunham Whitaker in his History of Whalley in 1801. Here he claims it was destroyed by a drunken rabble as an act of puritanical fury and further reports it has since been removed to Towneley.[2] Charles Townley never wrote why he brought the stones to Towneley but an entry in his diary in 1802 provides a clue. Here he writes of “making some holes to plant trees betwixt the Burnley Cross and the horse chestnuts”. [3] This suggests he saw the cross as Burnley’s market cross rather than as a memorial to Foldys and brought it to Towneley as a fashionable landscape ornament. He was no doubt aware that the Bristol High Cross had been re-sited at Stourhead in Wiltshire in 1780.

LancashireLegendsIn 1856, Thomas Turner Wilkinson dismissed Whitaker’s account of the removal of the cross, writing that it was levelled to the ground by one drunken barbarian for a wager rather being due to any anti-Catholic prejudice. He added that the whole was removed by the church wardens in 1789 to make way for a new footpath. [4] This both gives us a date and the authority for the removal to Towneley.

In 1873, a drawing of the cross by William Angelo Warrington appeared on the title page of John Harland and T. T. Wilkinson’s Lancashire Legends, titled “Foldys Cross, Burnley”. In the preface, Wilkinson expressed the hope it would be restored to its original site. The 4th edition of the History of Whalley, published in 1878, claimed : “The base and head are original; the present shaft is disproportionate and out of character as well as rough base stone.” Waddington again provided a drawing to accompany this description.

hofw1878This idea of restoring the cross to something like its original condition remained in the minds of the local historians until the beginning of the 20th century when Henry Taylor described it in The Ancient Crosses of Lancashire – “This cross is alleged to have been used for market purposes. Possibly, indeed, it was built as a second market cross, … The old shaft was broken; the present one is a roughly squared modern stone, incongruous with the cross and pedestal.” [5]

In 1908, the Council authorised restoration of Foldys Cross according to a sketch drawn by Henry Taylor. The stage was now set for the completion of the restoration during 1911 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the Borough. The Parks Committee took some time to make up their mind before finally resolving to re-erect the cross at the southerly end of the Avenue on the south side of Towneley Hall and this was completed on June 28th 1911.

During the 1920s, the cross was disfigured by chalk and pencil. In 1928 there was a proposal to fence it off with a suitable ornamental unclimable iron railing, at an estimated cost of £55. On January 23rd 1929 the Commissioners of H.M. Office of Works welcomed the proposal but there is no evidence that the proposal was ever implemented. If a railing had been put up it would have been removed in June 1940 in order to supply the Government’s pressing need for scrap metal.

foldys_crossWas the Council right to make the changes to the cross in 1911? The earliest photograph is from a Towneley family album and shows Emily Towneley and her cousin, Lady Caroline Molyneux, decorating the old cross with a lantern around 1860. There are many other photographs of visitors alongside the cross up until 1911. In over 100 years since there have been very few photographs taken of people alongside the cross. If the changes of 1911 had never been made and were proposed today, they would be rejected by English Heritage, but equally any change to the existing cross would be rejected. The cross is now a grade II listed monument with the English Heritage Building identity number  467232. So like it or not Foldys Cross is here to stay.

Four visitors with Foldys Cross around 1900

Visitor with Foldys Cross

[1] Diary of Ralph Thoresby, Edited by Joseph Hunter, London, 1830

[2] History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe, Blackburn, 1801

[3] British Museum TY1/20

[4] History of the parochial church of Burnley, Burnley, 1856

[5] Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, Volume XVIII – 1900, Manchester, 1901.