Skip to main content

The Wandering Wayside Cross and a Monastic Routeway

Monday 5 February, 2018, by Hannah Kingsbury

Wayside crosses were both religious symbols and waymarkers along often difficult, unmarked terrain. There are surviving examples in Malham Moor parish including a couple along Mastiles Lane, an old monastic route, and Nappa Cross, which was relocated into a nearby dry stone wall.
Nappa Cross, originally a wayside cross, is believed to have previously stood in a nearby prominent position at the junction of two bridle roads. The sole remains of Nappa Cross consists of a stone base with plain square socket that is built into the upper courses of a dry stone wall. A new shaft was added in 1965. A number of medieval wayside crosses are scheduled monuments, however due to the relocation of this cross-base, it was not considered worthy of protected status.
Stone crosses were erected widely throughout the medieval period, mostly between the 9th and 15th centuries. They helped serve the function of reiterating and reinforcing the Christian faith amongst those who passed by, as well as being an expression of monastic control and power of the surrounding landscape. They also had a practical purpose of reassuring the traveller, as wayside crosses often fulfilled a role as waymarkers, especially in difficult and otherwise unmarked terrain. Wayside markers are not that common in the Yorkshire Dales. They are most typically found in Cornwall and Dartmoor, with those elsewhere generally confined to remote moorland locations.
A number of monastic wayside markers that date from the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries survive as cross bases near to Nappa Cross along Mastiles Lane. This lane was once part of an important long distance monastic route linking the estates of Fountains Abbey with the mother house beyond Pateley Bridge.
Much of the land adjacent to Mastiles Lane had been gifted to Fountains Abbey. This route would have been an important economic highway in the medieval period, connecting the abbey with sheep pastures throughout the central Dales. Fountains Abbey gained a vast amount of wealth through the wool trade; documentary research shows that wool from Fountains, and sheep reared in the Dales was exported to the continent.
In the 18th Century Mastiles Lance became an important droving route for cattle being brought south from Scotland, and is now used by walkers.

Historic Environment Record: MYD3796
Parish: Malham
OS Grid Reference: SD 87527 64169
Dale: Malhamdale
Access: It is situated on Open Access land as well as being on a public right of way.
Picture of Hannah Kingsbury

Hannah Kingsbury

Hannah is the Cultural Heritage Officer for the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership scheme


2 Replies to “The Wandering Wayside Cross and a Monastic Routeway”

  1. Paul Watson says:

    This is very interesting and unexpectedly welcome information – as I am currently writing a book about Medieval Master Masons. My chapter on the ‘freemasons’ basically concludes that they appear to have originated within the monastic system of the 7th/8th/9th centuries, monastic builders who were monks, lay brothers and possibly a few slave artisans – forming a society of monks, a brotherhood, which became a more independent and autonomous corporation by the 11th c. This info about the Wayside Crosses I had not come across or considered before, so most interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *