Many churchyard crosses have been lost over the years, most to the Reformation of the 17th century and the iconoclasm that followed. We read of such things happening today in far away places and tut and pretend to ourselves that we would never stoop to be so threatened, but of course we do so stoop, and more pertinently, we did. Halkyn, like so many other villages, likely lost their churchyard cross to the sledgehammer of religious change, but it would seem a portion of it remained. Elias Owen tells us that,
‘I am informed by the Rev. Walter Evans, Rector of the parish, that he observed the part of the Cross…lying about the belfry of the old church, and that it was used by the bell-ringer as a rest for his foot.’
The Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd, Elias Owen (1886)
The Old Church was closed and torn down in the mid 19th centurty to make way for a better view from Halkyn Castle built by the Grosvenor Family further up the hill. There is very little to show for it now, other than a platform upon which it stood within the wholly fascinating Old Churchyard. A new church, the much admired St Mary’s was built by John Douglas in 1877-78, by the, ‘munificence of the Duke of Westminster’.
The Old Church had been rebuilt during the later 18th century, and it was probably at this time that any remaining vestige of the Cross was removed. The shattered fragments were scattered, some finding their way into the Church, including the remains of the headstone. With the building of the new Church, the headstone, recovered from beneath the bell-ringer’s foot, was built into one of the buttresses of St Mary’s, where it remains to this day. Quite wonderful, and surprisingly moving.
Though mutilated and battered, the ubiquitous Crucifixion is entirely legible. The stone is around 25 inches in length, and about 15 broad. There are two figures, one on each side of a crucified Jesus. On the left is almost certainly the Virgin Mary, her hands clasped to her breast. On the right is thought to be the Apostle, John, holding a book, perhaps the Bible. Both seem to have their heads upturned, looking up at the Crucifixion. The scene is supported by an angel with extended wings, a small cross upon its head. The workmanship seems of a high order, other than, curiously, the hands of the crucified Jesus. Elias Owen claims the Cross itself was of the 14th century, and there is no reason to doubt his findings - Hubbard agrees.
It is a curious thing to behold, the old within the new. Curious, and quite wonderful.