stump cross

1) A cross with a broken shaft.

The index to PNWR includes nine examples of Stump Cross as a place-name, in localities as far apart as Wadworth which lies south of Doncaster, Bolton by Bowland in the western dales, and Aldborough near Boroughbridge. The meaning is not in doubt but the evidence on the whole is late and my interest in the place-name lies in the evidence that ‘stump cross’ was a term in everyday use from the sixteenth century. The destruction of crosses is associated with the Reformation and its challenge to the Roman Catholic Church, and monuments continued to be destroyed through the Civil War period. The standing crosses were seen as symbols of Catholicism, and for zealous Protestants the breaking of their shafts was an irresistible challenge. Of course, many of the crosses were simply waymarkers, standing at major junctions, and they were not in themselves religious symbols although some undoubtedly came to be associated with the church, if only because they were halting-places during the processions at Rogation tide. A witness in a tithe case in 1556 recalled how before the Dissolution they would go in procession to a crose in Westowe parishe, or to the Crose at Whitwell Beacon, saying a Gospell in each place. That did not save the waymarkers from the hammers of the iconoclasts. In a visitation of 1567, it was noted that in Warburton they had a Stumpe of a crosse in their churchyeard, the head beinge smitten of, and in churchyards where that had not been done the parishioners were enjoined to pull downe and deface the same utterlie. In many early cases therefore ‘stump cross’ was a vocabulary item, not a place-name. J.K. Hammond’s work on Eccleshill contains details of the township boundaries in 1585 which ran from a close dyke and a stump cross … to Bolton out lanes: in 1607, a section of the highway from Stockton to York was reportedly in great decay

it led from Moncke Bridge end to a stompcross: the editor attempted to explain the term ‘stump cross’, saying that it was not infrequently met with, but he did not understand its meaning. It remained in use beyond the Civil Wars and a Worsbrough bye-law of 1688 required tenants to scour their ditches in the lane … up to the Stumpcross. It is to be expected that some examples of Stump Cross as a place-name will go back to the 1530s when Henry VIII broke with Rome, and the Act of Supremacy recognised him as head of the English church. In fact, it seems to have acquired that status almost immediately for when Thomas Percy of Scarborough bequeathed land to the Black Friars in 1536-7 one acre was described as lying at Stompe crosse. In 1578, a Beverley butcher had to pay 4s fine for his sheep depasturing in a Close at Stumpe Cross and that is possibly the Stump Cross in Bishop Burton. William Brooke of Stumpcross in Batley was married at Leeds in 1739. The frequency of the evidence from the 1530s actually makes a contribution to the history of ‘stump’ as a word. This is on record from the fourteenth century and for much of its earliest history it referred to the part of a limb which remained after amputation. From c.1440 it was used also of a standing tree-trunk and that may have played a part in the popularity of stump cross as a vocabulary item. In 1577, for example, the mayor of Beverley received 5s for 2 stump trees in Westwood . There is also interest in the parallels that exist between ‘stump’ and ‘stub’, although ‘an etymological connexion is difficult to make’. Of course ‘stub’ has a much longer history, as a word for the rooted portion of a felled tree, but it is worth noting that ‘stub cross’ is in use as a place-name earlier than stump cross. Two examples are Stob crose in Brampton Bierlow in 1516 and le Stub crosse in Pontefract in 1475. There were evidently broken crosses before the Reformation.

spellings stub cross
dates 1475 1516 1536-1537 1556 1567 1577 1578 1607 1688 1739

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Photo by Kreuzschnabel CC BY-SA 3.0