That the churchyard cross at St Mary’s in Cilcain has survived would seem to be something of a miracle. Writing in 1886, Elias Owen claims that it was in a desperate condition, in an, ‘imminent danger of falling’ and had,
‘departed considerably from the perpendicular, and looks as if it could not possibly weather the first storm which visits Cilcen’.
Elias Owen, ‘Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd’, p.7
Elias Owen's drawing of the churchyard cross, from Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd, 1886
The cross that Owen saw at the end of the 19th century, dated by him to be 14th century, was badly worn and weathered, fettered by braces and iron plugs, and over 2.3m in height, secured in a base stone. It was also in its original position on the south side of the church, almost opposite the now blocked priest’s door. Owen identified scouring on the shaft that he attributed to the sharpening of edged weapons. The crosshead or tabernacle had disappeared, and seems not to have been found in any of the restorations of St Mary’s in the previous 700 years.
In the intervening near 150 years since Owen’s visit, the cross has survived, has not toppled over though there have been several storms since which might have done so, has been reduced in height to nearly half of that in 1886 and been moved to the east end of the churchyard, between the lychgate and the east window. Owen was, as is often clear from his writing, a little despairing at the state of these crosses, and clearly a little pessimistic as to the future for the Cilcain cross. So, he would have been relieved to find it still within the churchyard, even if smaller in stature. It has also been straightened, and no longer seems likely to topple over in a sharp gust of Clywdian wind, while also surrounded by flagstones. The base stone, if still in existence, is now buried beneath the grass. It is, in short, a feature now, whatever role it can be debated it played on its original raising.
Elias Owen, Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd, Wrexham & Oswestry, (1886)
Frank Simpson, Flintshire Historical Society Publications, (1912)