The Old High Cross

This much moved cross now resides at the side of the road in Vale Street.  Previously, it stood in the square at the top of the town before being moved in its entirety to the Royal Bowling Green in 1848.  The peripatetic cross was then moved to its present location in 1983, where it no doubt rests uneasily, awaiting its next removal.

It is believed that the lower part of the shaft dates to the 15th century, while the upper part is a replacement of the original cross-head and is rather ostentatiously inscribed 1760.  The history of the cross is fascinating, since it seems Denbigh town life revolved around the monument.  During harvest time, men were hired at the cross, since agreements made at these religious monuments were binding.  These agreements were known as, ‘Cyflog y Croes’, which translates as, ‘Wage of the Cross.’  The most famous example of this tradition centres around Rhuddlan Cross, in which labourers could agree terms of hire for a week, and which made no account of weather, hence the term, ‘The Rhuddlan Wage’.

Elias Owen tells of visiting the High Cross and witnessing a, ‘number of loiterers, come together to discuss or hear news’.  Crosses were places in which the people of a town would congregate to keep in touch with current affairs and discuss business, and Denbigh was no different in this respect.  It was at Denbigh Cross that important announcements were made, such as relevant Acts of Parliament, marriage notices and the like.

The Old High Cross was also at the centre of markets and fairs in the town.  It is known that three sides of the cross were occupied by butchers, who used the cross as part of their stalls, tell-tale holes can be seen where awnings were fixed.  The Cross which looks as if the centre section has been whittled away over many years, was indeed used by the butchers to sharpen their blades, much to the concerns of Owen, who claims they, ‘endangered the safety of the Cross’.  The Cross was also used as a lamppost, boasting an elaborate arrangement of lantern lights.

The life of this Cross no doubt began as a public declaration of the piety of the populace, and while no doubt remaining a symbol of Christian devotion, it became something else as well; a centre of life within a community, practically appropriated to the needs of the people throughout its life.  Its worn appearance is a reflection of its historical importance to the town of Denbigh.

Elias Owen's original drawing of the Old High Cross in, 'Old Stone Crosses of the Vale of Clwyd.' (1886)

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