The Mystery Cross

Mystery Solved !

A visitor to the village, Nigel Fitton from Spain, sent in a couple of images of what appeared to be a buried cross on School Road.Mystery Cross

The pictures above, by Nigel Fitton, were shown to Bob Thomson, a resident versed in local history, who sent them to Chris Bowles, the Scottish Borders Council Archeologist for an opinion.

Here's his response:

"Very interested! That's quite a discovery. It certainly looks like it could be a terminal from a high cross. I like your idea of it being from a boundary cross. It certainly doesn't look like it's been finely carved, so perhaps not one of the more elaborate crosses that would have adorned the priory. Alternatively it may be an unfinished cross fragment. They occur from time to time particularly around the areas where masons worked outside the precincts. From the shape I'd guess possibly 12th or 13th century, but that's a wild guess. On a positive note, we may own it as part of the public realm! So there's a chance I can instruct someone to recover it."

Site visit was arranged to see if it could be recovered.

The following images show the stages of recovery, expert opinion follows beneath the images.

cross1 As found

As found, the concrete plinth with bins on used to be the location for one of the village water pumps.

cross2 Uncovered, showing size.
cross3 On the ground with scale sticks.

So, what is it ?

As the School Road was called Crossgate and the Sanctuary Limits of the Priory were marked by crosses at Whitecross, Applincross etc. it is possible that it is part of the Crossgate Cross.

Expert opinion is that it may have been a cross that was started but never finished, perhaps by a trainee mason. The shape is correct and has been cut square (right hand edge of bottom image) but the top is broken away, naturally, not a man made break, and there are no markings on either side.

The natural break would likely have caused it to be discarded.

It's possible that at some time it was dropped into position as a stepping stone to get to the water pump. There are also bits of clinker stuck to the rock suggesting it may have been used as an anvil stone at a later date. This is reinforced by the fact that previously there had been a blacksmith on the opposite side of School Road.

The expert summary:

"So whilst an interesting find it cannot be confirmed as a cross as hoped. Carving may have started to do so but stopped when top broke away. Signs indicate used as an anvil stone and then likely dumped as a stepping stone to make water pump easier to use."

The stone may be taken to Edinburgh for further examination but likely resting place will be the Priory or Interpretation Centre.

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