Anderton, the Headless Cross

Anderton Headless Cross

Near the Millstone pub in Anderton, at a crossroads, there is a carved stone a few feet high which is known by two names; the Headless Cross and the Grimeford Cross. It used to denote the centre of the village of Grimeford, which now no longer exists in its own right. There is no actual cross in evidence there now, just the stone which was its base. The original cross may well be that which was found during excavations for the reservoir here and which now resides in the Harris Museum in Preston. The cross has been judged to be a thousand years old and the carving on it represents an important figure wearing a horned helmet.

It is also said that there was once a chapel at this place, beneath which was a tunnel. During the 16th century, amid the violence of the Reformation, this tunnel was used as a hiding place by a priest escaping the pursuit of the King’s men. Unfortunately, when danger had passed, the priest failed to re-emerge. Although his body was never found, it was assumed that he had died – especially when his ghost was repeatedly seen near the Headless Cross.

This ghost may have an alternative explanation, as explained several years ago by an elderly Anderton resident, whose great-uncle Joe Hill was gamekeeper at Anderton Hall. Joe was cruelly murdered and his body was found by his neice, who was taking him some provisions. As she approached Joe’s cottage, she saw three men running away, wearing milkmaids’ bonnets to shield their faces from view. The men were never caught, their motives never explained. Joe’s great-nephew believes the ghost seen so often by the Headless Cross is Joe himself, still hunting down his murderers.

(Copyright Melanie Warren 2013, image © Copyright Phil Platt and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

About LancashireFolk

Lancashire folklore, legends, ghosts, local history - author of 'Lancashire Folk' published by Schiffer Publishing Winter 2015 - 9780764349836 £17.50. 'Manchester Folk', covering Greater Manchester, coming in 2017!
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4 Responses to Anderton, the Headless Cross

  1. Deanna says:

    “…an important figure wearing a horned helmet.” Tell me more about horned helmets.

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    • mellizwarren says:

      Good question, Deanna! One would assume that a horned helmet indicates a Viking chief. But, interestingly, the idea that Vikings wore horned helmets has largely been discredited, as none have ever been found by archaeologists. Even illustrations from the period (8th to 11th centuries) show only simple, non-horned, closely fitting helmets. The modern idea of the horned Viking is said to stem from the 19th century costume designer for Wagner’s Ring Cycle. However, that does not explain the fact that there are indeed ancient carvings in Britain which show men wearing helmets which do, indeed, appear to be bearing horns. These illustrations have always been understood to depict someone of great importance.

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  2. Interesting story – I love ghost stories, especially those involving cemeteries.

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  3. Pingback: The Headless Cross, Anderton, Lancashire | The Journal of Antiquities

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