Notice of Some Stone Crosses
The following is from Notice of Some Stone Crosses by James Drummond, Esq., R.S.A., F.S.A. Scot.:
Notice of Some Stone Crosses, With Especial Reference to the Market-Crosses of Scotland
From the interest lately created by the proposed restoration of the ancient City Cross of Edinburgh, it occurred to me that, having at various times made sketches of a number of Scottish market-crosses, a notice of a few of these might be acceptable to this Society.
In addition to Market or Town Crosses, there are two other kinds of Crosses that may be mentioned, viz., Ecclesiastical and Memorial. Of the latter, we have a great many in Scotland. For illustrations of a highly-interesting class of these, the public owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Spalding Club for their beautiful volume on the "Standing Stones of Scotland," so well edited by their and our secretary, Mr Stuart.
There is, however, a class not included in this volume to which I will simply allude, such as the one on the Hawkhill, near Alloa, having merely a rude cross carved on each side (fig. 2). This seems to be the first step in advance from the rude upright monolith, marking the site of a battle—such as the one at Dunbar (fig. 1)—or the grave of a chief. By the wayside, near Finzean House, Aberdeenshire, stands one stated by tradition to be erected to the memory of Dardanus, one of our mythic Scottish kings; while in the wood close by is his cairn—a very large one.
Next comes a rude attempt at art, a good specimen of which stands near Hume Castle, having incised upon it on one side the figure of a knight with his hound at his feet, and on the other his shield and sword, terminating with a cross enclosed in a circle (fig. 3). In the churchyard of Foulis, near Dundee, is a curious flat tombstone, having a canopy sculptured on it, below which is a knight’s sword, while his hunting horn hangs over the edge of the stone; at the foot of the grave is a rude upright cross (fig. 4). In the churchyard of Dunbar is another of the same class, having a floriated cross, and also the shield of arms and sword sculptured on it.
With the ecclesiastical cross, every one who has wandered in Italy and other Roman Catholic countries must be familiar; and in this country, no doubt, they were also very common previous to the Reformation, and were generally placed by the solitary wayside, to remind the faithful of their duty as good Catholics, or in some public place of a town, either placed there by the Church or erected by some pious devotee in the spirit with which Sir Walter Scott inscribes the well in "Marmion:"—
Of this class I only know of one, at Goodlieburn, near Perth (fig. 5). It has been a crucifix, having the figure of Christ sculptured on it, the under part, from the waist downwards, now only remaining, although I was told that people still remembered the upper part lying in the field. In a cottage garden by the roadside near Markinch, there is a stone with a cross rudely sculptured on it in relief. This may have belonged to the same class. At Crossrig, a few miles from Biggar, and at Preston near Dunse, fragments of such wayside crosses still remain.
In the churchyard of Borthwick there remains a socket, which may have formed part of a cross, erected on the spot where stood St Kentigern’s Marvellous Cross, which, with his residence here, is thus alluded to in Jocelyn’s Life of the saint, published by Pinkerton in his Vita Antiques Sanctorum—"Aliam quoque crucem incredibilem dictu, nisi posset explorari visu et tactu, in Lotherwerd (Borthwick) juste et religiose de resurrectione cogitans desola arena maris construxit. In quo loco ipse octo annorum spacio mandit." Again, on a rock jutting out into the road near South Queensferry, is the socket of such a cross, being the spot from which the pious pilgrims first got sight of Dunfermline. This interesting fragment was saved by the Earl of Roseberry, who insisted that the trustees should not interfere with it in making the road. A similar one was pointed out to me last autumn near Melrose, where it goes by the name of a Holy Water Font. Another class were boundary crosses, erected either as landmarks or to point out the extent of sanctuary of church lands. Some such still remain in connection with the Preceptory of Torphichen, radiating from one in the church-yard. However, Market or Town Crosses are those I wish particularly to call the attention of the Society to. They were generally placed in some large open space of a town, such a position being chosen not only to show where the market was held, but as a centre from which edicts, either royal or burghal, might be proclaimed, and where civil offenders might be punished. In Scotland they generally consisted of a pillar raised upon a flight of steps, or a solid basement without steps of any sort. On most crosses of this sort there still remains the iron staple to which the jougs (a collar used for chaining up malefactors for the public edification) were attached, serving thus the same purpose as the stocks in England, or for the more serious punishment of the pillory, where the offenders might be jeered at and pelted with everything unsavoury and disagreeable—a mode of punishment only abolished by Act of Parliament in 1837. In some cases, probably, the branks (another variety of the same class of punishment) may have been fixed at the opposite side of the Cross from the jougs. It seems to have been so at Ormiston and Crieff, in both of which the iron staples still remain. In the latter it is higher up the shaft than on the opposite side. The Market Cross sometimes consisted of a larger building, having a stair inside leading to the roof, which was surrounded by a parapet, and from the centre of the roof the pillar sprang. In country districts the jougs seem to have been attached either to the gateway of the churchyard, as at Duddingstone and Restalrig, near Edinburgh, or on the doorway of the church. At Spott, East Lothian, they are so fixed; the old bellman, who was a native of this parish, and who only died a few years ago, recollected having seen a man fixed in the jougs for some ecclesiastical misdemeanour. At Biggar the jougs are on a buttress by the church door; while on a buttress a few yards on the other side of the door, there remains a staple where, very probably, the branks, or witch’s bridle, was attached. Sometimes they were attached even to a tree. A pair which had been so placed in the churchyard of Applegirth, Dumfriesshire, are now in possession of Sir William Jardine. In towns they were occasionally on the door-post of the common prison. At the ancient village of Water of Leith they hung at the doorway of an old house still standing. This house, or some part of it, was used as a prison. The Cross was also used to measure punishment from. You have all heard the story of the judge who condemned a notorious offender to be publicly whipped from the Cross to the Watergate, but who so little appreciated the benefit that, shaking his fist in the judge’s face, he told him with an oath that he had done his worst—whereupon the judge laconically added, "and back again ;" and in the old ballad of "Adam Bell" we are told that preparations were made by the Justice for the execution of William of Cloudesly at the Pillory or Cross—
Crosses were no doubt originally ecclesiastical, and their transition from this character to their ordinary use is simple. In rude and lawless times we can suppose a paction of any sort being considered binding, if contracted at a Cross, with its sacred significance. This would perhaps be rendered doubly sure if, while hand-fasting, they touched with the other hand the Cross. The place where it was situated thus becoming a place of bargain-making, and the Cross gradually losing its religious significance, its very cruciform shape disappearing, until at last it was transformed into the ordinary Market Cross. The Crosses of Cockburnspath and Clackmannan (figs. 6 and 7) are characteristic in this respect, the one at Ormiston still preserving the cruciform shape ; having, however, a shield of arms sculptured on it, the ecclesiastical character is lost. But the most beautiful of all Scottish market-crosses I have yet seen is that of Inverkeithing (see Plate II.), seeming to me to possess all the requisites of such an erection. It is heraldic (which, fortunately, fixes its date), has a sun-dial, which is again surmounted by the Scottish Unicorn, with the shield. Attached to the shaft the staple for the jougs still remains, the whole surrounded by a parapet wall, in which is a doorway. The capital is formed by heraldic shields, two of them being charged with the royal arms; one for the king; the other being assumed by the Duke of Rothesay as the king’s eldest son and heir apparent; those of Anabella Drummond, queen of Robert III, viz. the royal and Drummond arms impaled—and of the Earl of Douglas. May not this Cross have been a gift of the queen on the occasion of the marriage of her son, the Duke of Rothesay, with the daughter of the Earl of Douglas, in 1398, as the heraldry suggests? consequently carrying us back to troublous times in our history, when the Wolf of Badenoch was devastating Morayshire, sacking and burning Elgin Cathedral, and committing all sorts of cruelties and excesses; when the Clan Key and the Clan Chattan nearly extirpated one another on the Inch of Perth; and recalling the tragical and cruel murder of the Duke of Rothesay in 1401, who was starved to death by the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Douglas. Shortly after the death of the Prince a chapel was built in St Giles’, having on the capital of its centre pillar the arms of these two noblemen; and it is not unlikely that this may have been a votive offering for the deed of blood. This capital bears a strong resemblance to the capital of this cross, only having two shields instead of four. Occasionally there is a date, but this seems generally more modern than the erection of the Cross, and seems to mark either a removal or restoration. On the Cross of Biggar there are two dates—1633, which, I suppose, may be the time of its first erection; while on a stone placed above the old capital is the date 1694, with the initials E. J. W., showing that at this date it had been repaired by John, sixth Earl of Wigton. Sometimes a coat of arms or a crest was carved on the capital, as at Clackmannan, Kincardine, Doune, Coldingham and many others.
I come now to a subject which I approach with some timidity; namely, the restoration of our City Cross. About the manner and style of doing this two opinions exist. Is it to be a close or open Cross? Is it to be a restoration in form, size, and proportion of the Cross removed in 1756? Or is it to be an entirely new design? This is a matter which has at various times been talked of. It has now been taken up in earnest, the shaft and capital of the ancient City Cross, now standing in the grounds of Drum House, having lately been proffered to the town by Alexander Mitchell of Stow, Esq. The magistrates having accepted of this gift, it occurred to some enthusiastic citizens that money could be raised among the inhabitants to restore it in the style and of the proportions of the Cross removed in 1756. A committee was accordingly formed for this purpose, who resolved that, until they had fully considered how the restoration should be carried out, it would be as well that the matter should not be brought before the Town Council or any one connected with it, that it might, as much as possible, be a citizen affair. While the committee were still deliberating, Mr William Chambers, its secretary, produced a design for an open cross, by Mr David Cousins, the city architect—Mr Chambers recommending this design and its style, "as imparting a light and graceful effect to the structure, not unlike the Scott Monument" ! Such a design, however, could in no sense be considered a restoration of the Cross taken down in 1756, excepting that it would occupy the same space of roadway. Unfortunately, this design, which was not approved of by the committee, was shown at a meeting of the Town Council held on the 12th February—a body who previously thought so well of the project of the restoration, that they not only granted a site, but actually caused a movable structure of wood and canvas to be placed at various points in the street, that thus it might be determined which was the most eligible site. Now, however, on the motion of Mr Duncan M’Laren, the whole matter was set aside by 21 to 14; and although Mr M’Laren’s remarks were in some respects quite uncalled for, yet his language in reference to this design was perfectly just, when he said, that to call this a restoration of the ancient City Cross could only be regarded as a hoax, and as an imposition upon the credulity of the public—an attempt to raise money on false pretences.
The original committee, after holding many meetings, still differing in opinion among themselves whether it should be a simple restoration of the Cross erected in 1617, and removed in 1756, or a modified design of the same proportions, agreed to refer the matter to a joint committee, selected from the Royal Scottish Academy and the Antiquarian Society. On the part of the Antiquaries—Messrs John Hill Burton, James Drummond, Joseph Bobertson (who acted as Secretary), and Professor Simpson (who was chosen chairman). From the Academy—Messrs. William Brodie, George Harvey, D. O. Hill, and W. B. Johnstone. This committee, after mature deliberation, unanimously resolved upon the following Report:—
"The committee made it their first duty to ascertain whether it would be practicable to incorporate the fragment which Mr Mitchell has so liberally placed at the disposal of the public into an exact restoration, both in form and in dimensions, of the building of which it formed a part. Having, on a full examination of all the existing engravings and other data, come to the unanimous conclusion that such is practicable, the committee communicated their views to that distinguished architect Mr Bryce, who kindly agreed to prepare a plan in accordance with them. This plan (Plate III.) has been carefully considered by the committee, and they are much gratified to find that it thoroughly justifies their expectations. It is not only an unquestionable restoration of the Cross which was taken down in 1756, but it proves that building to have been a very fine example of the national architecture of Scotland before the Union, as displayed with characteristic difference in the nearly contemporary Cross of Preston, and in the later Cross of Aberdeen.
"The committee unanimously recommend the adoption of this plan, confident that it will supersede all questions as to style or design which may have arisen from the supposition that no sufficient data existed for the restoration of the original Cross of 1617."
[This design was submitted to the Town Council, who, at a meeting held on Tuesday, 13th. August 1861, resolved by a majority (18 to 9), that they had no objections to have it erected in front of the County Buildings, knowing well that an Act of Parliament prevents any building being erected on that open space. Thus is sealed the fate of the Cross of Edinburgh, as far as this design is concerned. I will only add, that much misunderstanding has taken place from the mistakes which Mr Duncan M’Laren fell into regarding the history of the Cross and its details, originating partly in the report given in to the Town Council on 4th December 1860 by Mr David Cousin, and who, from his position as City Architect, should have known the difference between carving and spangling.]
As far as I have heard public opinion expressed, it would appear that an almost universal feeling prevails for the restoration of the Cross to be as near an approximation as possible, both in proportion and appearance, to that taken down in 1756, (For a history of this Cross, see paper by Mr M’Culloch, Proc. Ant. Soc. Vol. II.) Some, however, I am sorry to say, were carried away by having seen the design for an open cross, which was for some time exhibited in a draper’s window near to Mr William Chambers’s place of business, as the proposed restoration of the Ancient City Cross. Such must have been designed under an entire misapprehension of what was wanted. Two arguments have been used in justification : it would be so light and airy; and that this style prevails in England, and the Aberdeen Cross is an open one—both of which arguments show that due attention has not been paid to the requirements of such a structure as we want, or to the purposes for which English market-crosses were dedicated. In style they were entirely different from our Scottish market-crosses. The beautiful market-crosses at Chichester and Malmesbury were finished in a lantern such as the spire of St Giles’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, or that of King’s College, Aberdeen. The one at Glastonbury had its roof radiating from a centre; Chedder Cross had a domed roof; and that at Salisbury was built in the fourteenth century for country people selling poultry under. In all of these there is or was a centre shaft for the support of the superstructure; but in none was there a stair to the top. They were all polygonal buildings, with an open archway on each of the sides, and vaulted within, being of size enough to hold a considerable number of persons. In fact, Leland, writing in the time of Henry VIII., tells us that these places were erected "for the shelter and accommodation of poor market folk to stand in when it raineth."
Neither must we be confounding what is wanted with preaching crosses. These were generally placed near a church. St Paul’s Cross, London, demolished by Act of Parliament in 1645, as savouring of Popery and Prelacy, was a good specimen of this class. It consisted of a pulpit of wood raised upon steps, and covered with a lead roof. Nor with such as Waltham Cross or the Scott Monument: they are memorial, and belong neither to kirk nor market. Yet, strange as it may seem, I have heard all these advanced as precedents for our guidance in the restoration of the Cross of Edinburgh. Now, what is wanted is a substantial reality, not a toy, but something on which heralds and their attendants may stand with a feeling of security,—something shadowing forth, as it were, the stability and power of the Government they represent, and in whose name, in all the pomp of heraldry and at the sound of the trumpet, they proclaim, in a voice of authority, royal edicts for coronations, for peace and for war, parliamentary ordinances affecting the peace, happiness, and prosperity of the nation at large, and on which traitors may be punished; a building, in short, having some resemblance to a castle with its parapet wall, as a protection to those acting under the royal authority. Complaints of the want of such a structure have been made for years. Now, surely the architects who designed such structures at a time when they were much used, knew best what was wanted, and they seem all to have been closed crosses—the English so-called crosses being merely ornamental sheds erected in a market-place for shelter during bad weather. As to the "light and airy" argument, no two reasons could have been used more condemnatory of such a design, not having even the excuse of old Leland, to shelter poor market folks during rain. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there were only five crosses in the style of the Edinburgh one, built in 1617. Preston Cross (Plate III.) is evidently of the same date, and is, perhaps, the purest in architectural style of any cross of the same class. The privilege of holding weekly markets and annual fairs was granted to the barony of Preston in 1617; and about this time, no doubt, that Cross would be erected. Unfortunately, the whole family papers of Hamilton of Preston were destroyed by fire in 1650; and as the superiority of the barony belonged to this family, anything like accurate information is not now to be had. The fraternity of the Chapmen of the Lothians allege that their predecessors acquired a right to it in 1636. They still meet there annually for the election of office-bearers. They are also bound, I believe, to keep it in repair. It is now in the middle of a market garden, although the gardener, now about ninety years of age, remembers when the Cross was in the centre of a large open square, from the outskirts of which the foundations of the houses were only removed at the end of last century. He has also occasionally come upon the causeway of former streets. The architect of this Cross may have been William Wallace, who not only belonged to this part of the country, but was much employed in the neighbourhood. He was for many years principal master-mason to the king, and died in 1631, while acting as master-mason of Heriot's Hospital.—The third was Perth. It was pulled down by Cromwell's army in 1651, and rebuilt in 1669. The shaft, of this Cross, like the Edinburgh one, was spangled with thistles; and so much importance was attached to the painting and gilding of these, that, on its restoration in 1669 [Perth Council Register], an agreement was entered into between the Magistrates of Perth and the Lord Lyon to grant a license to Charles Wilson to come from the Herald Office in Edinburgh "to gilde the Croce." The shaft is now preserved in the grounds of Fingask Castle. The Cross was finally condemned and demolished, as an incumbrance to the street, in 1765.—The fourth was at Dundee. It was taken down in 1777. About this period the demon of destruction seems to have seized those in power. Edinburgh alone had to lament, in a period of eleven years, the wanton destruction of three of its most interesting historical relics. In 1753 the Royal Porch of Holyrood Palace was taken down; in 1756 the Cross disappeared; and in 1764 the Netherbow Port was pulled to pieces, and the materials sold by auction. The shaft of the Dundee Cross now lies in the ground floor of the church tower, ignominiously covered up with old mural stones and rubbish. Until within the last three years it stood in the churchyard.—And the fifth is the Aberdeen one, erected in 1686,on the site of a more ancient cross; in 1821 we are told it was thoroughly repaired; and in 1837 altogether removed to another site, when it was made an open cross, as being of no other use than the ornamental—there is not even a stair to the top. This Cross was built by John Montgomery, mason in Old Rayne. He received for the work L.100 sterling, which was paid from the Guild wine funds. It is hexagonal in form, and about 18 feet to the top of the parapet. From the centre springs a Corinthian column wreathed with thistles, and about 12Jfeet high. The capital is surmounted by the unicorn in marble, with the royal shield of Scotland at its breast. The upper part of the building is divided into twelve compartments, two of these being occupied by heraldic shields—the one of the royal, the other of the city arms. In the other ten are royal Scottish medallions, beginning with James I. and ending with James VII. An attempt has lately been made to show that the Cross of Peebles was of this important class. However, on causing inquiry to be made of old people on the spot, and who well remember the old Cross, they all distinctly describe it as raised upon a solid pedestal six or eight feet high, slightly raised towards its centre to allow the rain to run off, but with, no stair, inside or out.
Two questions naturally suggest themselves: What was the form of the original or ancient Cross of Edinburgh, taken down in 1617? and, Where did it stand? There seems little difficulty in answering the former query, my own opinion being that it was something similar in design to the Inverkeithing Cross—a simple column, surmounted by the unicorn, and raised upon a flight of steps, only larger and more important, and having perhaps the large stone basin now preserved at Abbotsford, from the centre of which the shaft may probably have sprung; the whole being surrounded by a parapet wall of no great height, but sufficient to keep the crowd out on ordinary occasions, in which was an entrance with a door of iron or wood. These statements receive confirmation from various entries in the Treasurer's accounts of the City:—
With regard to the original site of the Cross, it seems, from the account of Queen Mary's visit to the city in 1561, to have been opposite St Giles's, at the east end of the Luckenbooths; and from the fact also that it is not shown in any of the earliest views of the city, which are so drawn that the church must have concealed it, while the Canongate or St John's Cross is shown in its proper place. This Cross is now placed against the wall of the Tolbooth in the Canongate. The staple for the jougs still remains, and there was also a contrivance of some sort for fixing the legs. Old people still living recollect of a woman being put in the jougs here for stealing yarn, a hank or hasp of it being coiled round her neck during the pillory. Arnott says there were three Crosses in the Canongate—St John's, the Canongate, and the Girth Cross near the Watergate; which last marked the extent of the sanctuary at Holyrood. What remains of the Ancient City Cross of Edinburgh, and now standing with part of its shaft in the grounds of Drum House, near Dalkeith, is deserving of notice, from the beauty of its design and workmanship. The capital, which is of elegant form and proportions, represents animals of the dragon kind, entwined both head and tail, and amid clustering foliage, surrounding the capital; the sculpturing is most delicate and beautifully detailed, both animals and leaves being undercut, and standing out in bold relief, which gives it a light and sparkling effect, especially during sunshine, as the light glints through the open spaces in the carving. On scraping away part of the whitewash with which the shaft is unfortunately encrusted, traces of paint are here and there come upon, which has sunk into the texture of the stone, no doubt the preparation on which gilt thistles were spangled, as mentioned by Arnott, who says the shaft was 20 feet long. The Cross crosslet which surmounts the capital is modern, as also the pedestal.
Arnott's description of the Cross of 1617 has caused much needless discussion. He describes the capital as Corinthian, whereas in the Cross at the Drum it is Gothic. Now, when we know the careless way in which architectural details are sometimes described by those who should know better (even at the present day), we cannot be surprised that Arnott fell into such an error, describing it, as he no doubt did, from the drawing which he has engraved, in which the capital is quite as like Gothic as the nondescript animals doing duty as gurgoils are like the originals, which were lions, one of which, fortunately, is preserved at Lixmount, near Edinburgh.
From the resemblance of the capital of the Cross to some of the bosses in St Giles's Church, more especially to one representing animals chasing one another round a flower, presented to this Society by Mr J. Gibson-Craig, and which belonged to one of the chapels destroyed during the unfortunate repairs of this church, I should suppose the date to range somewhere between 1400 and 1420.
But why, it is often asked, was this Cross removed, and the Luckenbooths, which were also in the street, allowed to remain? The answer is a simple one. If the Cross was designed, as I suppose it originally to have been, in connexion with the collegiate church, and long before the Luckenbooths were thought of, it would occupy the centre of the street; whereas the Luckenbooths, as shown in the diagram, were entirely to one side, leaving plenty of room for the royal cavalcade. On the 25th March 1617, we are told by Calderwood, this Cross was taken down, the old long stone having been translated, with the assistance of "certane mariners in Leith, from the place where it stoode, past memorie of man, to a place beneathe in the Highe Street, without anie harme to the stane; and the bodie of the old Crosse was demolished, and another buildit, wherupon the long stone or obelisk was erected and set upon." It being considered necessary by the magistrates to widen the street upon the occasion of the visit of King James the Sixth to his native country, which took place during the month of May this same year.
In the Treasurer's Accounts of the City of Edinburgh there are fifteen pages entitled, "The compt of the debasements for taking doune Cross at Drum. the Aid Croce and building the New, beginning the fourt of Januar 1617."
Many of the Items in this account being interesting, I will select a few. The Cross seems to have, been four months and a-half in building, and the amount expended, on reckoning up the summas at the foot of the pages, was £4486, 5s. 6d. Scots.
The names of seven or eight master-masons are specified in the accounts. At first they were paid at the rate of L.4 the week; but this sum was raised to L.4,13s. 4d. By the term master-mason we are only to understand skilful workmen in distinction from those called ordinary workmen, who were employed at the rate of L.2, 10s., increased to L.3, 12s. the week. But it is evident that the true master-mason of the work was JOHN TALIPHERE, as will be seen from the following extracts :—
It would appear from the foregoing extracts, that John Milne who was sent for to Perth by the Magistrates of Edinburgh, in November 1616, to assist John Lambert in carving the statue of the king for the Netherbow Port, was employed with his men after the Cross was put up; and as he received higher wages than the other master-masons, it may be inferred that with his men he was engaged to carve ornamental details, such as heads, armorial bearings, and gurgoils. This is the more likely, seeing he received the same pay while assisting John Lambert.
The John Milne* here mentioned was subsequently appointed principal master-mason to the king in 1631, on the decease of William Wallace.
[* For many particulars in the history of the Mylne family, I am indebted to Robert W. Mylne, Esq., architect, London. 1669-70. Item, to George Porteous for painting the Croce, 800 lib. merks, and to his men 2lib. 10s . . . = 536 14 8
This was for restoring it after its defacement during the Protectorate, in 1652.]
This last Cross again was demolished in 1756. The scene is thus described in the "Scots Magazine" of that date:—" As soon as the work--men began, which was in the morning of March 13th, some gentlemen, who had spent the night over a social bottle, caused wine and glasses to be carried thither, mounted the ancient fabric, and solemnly drank its dirge. The beautiful pillar which stood in the middle, fell and broke to pieces, by one of the pulleys used on the occasion giving way." This accounts for its present deficiency in length, being now only 14 feet 7 inches.
I may also add a few historical incidents which bear some relation to the first Cross.
Drummond of Hawthornden, in his History of Scotland, tells us that in 1436 the murderers of King James I. were thus disposed of. The Earl of Athole, after being stripped to his shirt, "was mounted on a pillar in the market-place, and crowned with a diadem of burning iron, with a placard bearing 'The King of Traitors;'" afterwards he was tortured on a scaffold, and there had his head cut off. Chambers and Stewart were also beheaded on a high scaffold erected in the market-place, while the commoner sort were hanged on gibbets.
In Dunbar's Poem to the Merchants of Edinburgh, he alludes to the Cross—some of the complaints, shall I say, being as applicable now as they were about the year 1500, when they were written:—
In 1561, Sept. 2, when Queen Mary made her entry into Edinburgh after her arrival from Prance, we are told that "after an entertainment in the Castle, she rode into the city accompanied by her nobility, amid volleys from the cannon in the Castle, and was met by fifty of the young men of the burgh, dressed as Moors. Sixteen of the burghers also, in gowns and bonnets of velvet, bare up the pall of purple velvet, which was lined with red taffety, and fringed with silk and gold, &c. The first place stopped at was the Butter Tron, where a gate was erected. Under this was a cloud, which opened, when a child descended and presented the keys of the city, together with a bible and psalm-book. The child delivered a speech, again ascending into the cloud. Next she stopped at the Tolbooth, where scaffolds were erected and another speech made by "a fair wirgin (virgin), callit Fortune. And after anelittel speitche maid thair, the quenis grace come to the Croce, quhair thair was standand four fair virgynnis, cled in the maist hevenlie clething, and fra the quhilk Croce the wyne ran out at the spouttis in greit abundance ; thairwes the noyiss of pepill casting the glassis with wyne." The wine was no doubt contained in such a large stone basin as the one preserved at Abbotsford, and ran out at the mouths of the grotesque heads sculptured on it, beside each of which probably stood one of the four fair damsels. This notice is particularly interesting, as giving the relative position of the first Gross—a point which has been much disputed.
1565. In Knox's "History of the Reformation," we are told that the Reformed clergy seized Sir James Carvet (or Tarbat), a Roman Catholic priest, "revested him with all his garments upon him, and so carried him to the market-cross, binding the chalice in his hand, and himself fast tied to the cross for the space of an hour; the same was repeated the next day for the space of three or four hours, during which time the boys and others served him with his Easter eggs. The press of people so increased upon the Cross, that Archibald Douglas, the provost, came with some halberdiers and released him, and carried him safe again to the Tolbooth." Had the Cross been anything of the form of that of 1617, the victim would have been in no danger from the pressing of the crowd upon him, to say nothing of the shelter which the parapet at such a height would have afforded from the unsavoury missiles of the rabble.
"1598. The 10th Julii.—Ane man, sume callit him a juglar, playit sic sowple tricks upone ane tow, qlk was festinit betwixt the tope of St Geills Kirk steiple and ane stair beneathe the Crosse, callit Josias Close* heid, the lyk was nevir sene in yis countrie, as he raid dpune the tow and playit sa maney pavies on it.
[* This Close, with others in its neighbourhood, has disappeared.]
"The 27 of Maii, the laird of Johnestoun his pictor hung at the Crosse with his heid dounwart, and declarit ane mansworne man ; and upone the 5th of Junii, he, and his complices, were put to the home, and pronuncit rehellis at the Crosse be opin proclamatione."
In the year 1599 a company of English comedians obtained the royal license to act plays in Edinburgh. This permission gave offence to the clergy, whobegan to "exclaim in their sermons against stage-players, their unruliness and immodest behaviour;" and they even ventured to prohibit the people, under the pain of ecclesiastical censures, from attending the theatre. As the act of the church-session or consistory was a direct attempt to annul the King's license, it was resented as a contempt and indignity offered to his Majesty. An Act of Privy Council, passed on the 8th of November, "ordains ane official' of armes to pass to the Mercat-Croce of Edinburgh, and thair be oppiii proolamacioun in his hienes name and auctoritie to command and charge the haill personis of the saidis foure sessiones, becaus thay are an multitude, to convene thame-selffis in thair accustomat place of convening within thrie houris next eftir the said charge, and thair be ane speciall act, to cass annul and discharge the vther act forsaid, and with that to gif ane speciall ordinance and directioun to thair haill ministeris, that thay eftir thair sermonis vpon the nixt Sonday publictlie admonische thair awne flockis to reuerence and obay his majestie, and to declair to thame that thay will not restreane nor censure ony of thair flockis that sail repair to the saidis commedeis and playis, considering his majestie is not of purpois or intentioun to awthorize allow, or command ony thing quhilk is prophane, 'or may cary ony offence or sclander with it; and to charge thame heirto under the pane of rebellioun and putting of thame to the home." This brought the clergy immediately to their senses; and twodays after, it was again proclaimed at the Mercat-Croce that they had been advised "verie raschlie and vnaduisitlie to contramand be ane publict act, his majesties said warrand;" and that now "thair floikis may friely at thair awne piessour repair to the saidis commedeis and playis without ony pane, skaithe, censureing, reproche or sclander to be incurrit be thame thairthrow." [The History of Scottish Poetry by David Living, LL.D. Edin., 1861.]
In Birrell's "Diary" we have the following quaint description of an interesting scene. 1600."The llth day of Auguste, being Monday, the King came over the water. The toune, with the haill suburbs, met him upone the Sandys of Leithe in armes, wt grate joy, and schutting of muskettis, and shaking of pikes. He went to the Kirk of Leith, to Mr David Lindesayis orisone. Yr'after, the toune of Edr., having conveinit up to Edr., and standing at the hie gaitt, hes M. past to the Crosse, the Crosse being hung wt tapestrie, and went up yr'on wt his nobillis. Mr Patrick Galloway being yair, made ane sermone upon the 124 Psalm; he declarit the haill circumstances of the treasone proposit by the Earle of Gowrie and hes brother, qlk the King testifiet be hes awen mouth, sitting upone the Crosse all the tyme of the sermone.—12th. The nixt day following, at 6 houris at evin, the fyve ministers of Edr. banischit be open proclamation and sound of trumpet at the Crosse, for not affirming the King's words qlk he ratifiet at the Crosse."
Now, if this means anything, it is surely that the steps of the Cross were carpeted with tapestry for the king and his nobles to sit upon, the object being that the king, who was fond of doing things in a homely way, might show himself to his loving subjects, and join them thus openly in a prayer of thankfulness, and also receive their congratulations on his escape from the treasonable attempt upon his life by the Earl of Gowrie, which he could not have done had he sat down on such a structure as the last Cross—he would have disappeared behind the parapet wall. On such an occasion, it is also very probable that the shaft and basin would be covered with hangings.
After such evidence as these notices furnish, it seems to me there can he no doubt that at all events the original Cross had no such understructure as that of 1617,otherwise there would have been no occasion for the erection of "ane wooden skaffalt at the mercat-croce," for the quartering, drawing, and heading of traitors, &c. And, moreover, it could not have been used as a pillory, which may be proved from the following extract from "Nicholl’s Diary."—"26 Marche 1655. Mr Patrik Maxwell, ane arrant decevar, was brocht to the Mercat Croce of Edinburgh, qiikair a pillorie was erectit, gairdit and convoyed with a company of sodgeris; and thair, after ane full houris standing on that pillorie, with his heid and handis lyand out at hoillis cuttit for that end, his ryght lug was cuttit af."
Now, in the first Cross the shaft of it was used as the pillory, as may be seen in the Treasurer's Accounts:—
A few from Nicoll's Diary in connection with the last Cross may be interesting, as graphically illustrative of the manners and customs of these times. Montrose having been taken prisoner at the end of April 1650, he was ordered by the Estates of Parliament to be hanged at the Cross. "This sentence waspunctuallie execute upon him at the Mercat Croce of Edinburgh upon Tysday the 21st day of May 1650, and he hangit upon ane heigh gallows, maid for the view of the pepill more than ordinar, with his buikis and declaratiounes bund on his bak. He hang full thrie houris; thairefter cut doun, falling upon his face, nane to countinance him bot the executioner and his men. His heid, twa leggis, and twa airmes tane fra his body with ane aix, and sent away and affixit at the places appoyntit thairfoir; his body cassin in to ane lytill schoirt kist, and takin to the Burrow mure of Edinburgh, and bureyed thair amang malefactouris." His head was spiked on the Tolbooth.
"Feb. 1652.—Upone Settirday the sevint day of Februar 1652, by ordouris from the Commissioneris of the Parliament of England now sittand at Dalkeith, thair were maissones, carpentaris, and hammermen direct to the Kirk of Edinburgh, quhair the Kinges sait was erectit, and to the mercat croce of Edinburgh, quhair his airmes and unicorne with the croun on his head was set; and thair pulled doun the Kinges airmes, dang doun the unicorne with the croun that wes set upone the unicorne, and hang up the croun upone the gallowis. (By these treacherous villanes.) The same day, the lyke was done at the entrie of the Parliament Hous and Nather Bow, quhair the Kinges portrat was fund; defacing and dinging doun all these monumentis and curious ensignnes. The lyke, also, in the Castell of Edinburgh and Palice of Halyrudhous."
[Diary of John Nicoll. Printed for the Bannatyne Club. Edin. 1836. 4to.]
1660.—" This Proclamatione wessolemnlie actit at the Mercat Croce of Edinbrugh, upon sevint day of August be four severall heraldis in thair coates of airmes, the ane reidand, and the uther procleamand, in presens of the Magistrates of Edinburgh and Town Counsell, all of thame standing upone the Croce in thair riche robbis, the Magistrates and Aldermen in thair starlet robbis, and the Counsell in thair blak gownis, the Croce being richlie clad," &c.
On the occasion of the coronation of Charles II., 23d April 1661, "the Mercat Croce was buskit up with floweris and grene bransches of treyis, and sum punszeones of wyne layd on the heid of the Croce, with Bachus set thairon, and his fallow servandis ministering unto him, quha drank lairglie, and distribute full glassis abundantlie, casting thame over among the pepill." "Efter denner the Magistrates of Edinburgh come throw the citie to the Mercat Croce, quich wes gairdit with a great number of partizens, and thair drank the Kinges helth upon thair kneyis, and at sindry uther pryme pairtes of the citie ; the nobles also and gentrie did the lyke at sindrie of the bonefyres of the Croce, dansing about thame, and drinking thair wynes upone thair kneyis."
"Upon the 13thday of May 1661,Sir Archibald Johnnestoun of Warystoune, lait Clerk Eegister, being forfalt in this Parliament, and being fugitive fra the lawis of the kingdome for his tresonable actis, he was first oppinlie declairit traitour in face of Parliament, thairefter the Lord Lyon king at airmes, with four heraldis and sex trumpetteris, went to the Mercat Croce of Edinburgh, and thair made publict intimation of his forfaltrie and treason, rave asunder his airmes, and trampled thame under thair feet, and kuist a number of thame over the Croce, and affixed ane of thame upone the height of the great stane, to remayne thair to the public view of all the beholders. Thir airmes were croced bakward, his heid being put downmest and his feet upmest."
1662.—" To wit in July and August, thair wer sindrie commedois actit, playing and dancing, at the Croce of Edinburgh, upone towis, done by strangeris, for quhich, and for droges sauld be thame, thai resavit much' money, and for dancing and volting upone a tow to the admiration of many."
1663, May 29.—The Magistrates, 'with the usual demonstrations of loyalty, celebrated the Bestoration hy "drinking mirrelie" at the Cross, also "erectit ane lairge skaffold upone the eist syde of the Croce, quhairan thair wes placed sex danceris, all this tyme the violes playing, the drums beating," &c.
1666, 22d Dec.—" Ther was six men hanged at Edinburgh Croce, comonlie callit The Whigs: quairof Mr HewM'Zell, expectant minister was on, and Umphra Colquhon, merchand in Glasgow, was ane iither, with uther four : quho all of thame pretendit they died 'For God and the Covenant.'"
I cannot help, in conclusion, alluding to what passed at a meeting of the Architectural Institute, held on the 8th April, when a paper was read by Mr Lessels on the Eestoration of Old Buildings. In the course of his remarks the following sentence occurred: "Each building possesses a value in itself, not only as a work of architecture, but an exponent of the wants and feelings of ages that are past." Now, if ever a building was expressive in these respects, it was the Cross of Edinburgh, supposed to be the first in a style so peculiarly national that I am not at present aware of anything similar out of Scotland, erected at the most interesting period of our civic and baronial architecture; and yet the following extraordinary opinion was advanced by Mr Lessels: "I think we may be grateful that we are spared the trouble of its removal, for a greater piece of barbarism can hardly be conceived to have existed." Peculiarities, I may be allowed to remark, but certainly not barbarisms; for if such language refers to the mixture of architectural styles, such as the introduction of classical details, &c., it would also apply to Heriot's Hospital, Wyntoun House, and to most of the baronial mansions in Scotland built about this period, and which have ever since been copied and quoted as authorities by architects who have adopted the Scottish baronial style. And I feel quite convinced, that if Mr Lessels had taken the trouble of making one of his own careful drawings, even from the wretched engraving of the old Cross, he could never have used the language he did on this occasion. Every one knows how a fine picture may be ruined, as the Cross has been, by a poor engraving.
In addition to the Market-Crosses figured, there are many others well worthy of notice. Those of Scone, Lochmaben, Ancrum, Aberlady, Gifford, Kincardine, Airth, Coldingham, and others, are raised upon steps. The average height of the pillar and capital of these is from 9 to 13 feet. Those of Musselburgh, Thornhill, and Pencaitland, again, consist of a solid basement having the Cross or pillar springing from the centre of it. At Falkirk the old site of the Cross is occupied by a public well, which is surmounted by the Scottish lion. This may have formed part of the ancient Market-Cross. It is called the Cross Well. Fragments remain of those of Bowden, Kinross, Upper Airth, &c.; while the Cross at West Linton is a female now raised on the top of the public well. It is thus described by Dr Pennecuik in his "Description of Tweeddale," published in 1715: "The Cross, now decayed, is a lively specimen of natural genius without the assistance of art, being the entire labour of one Giffard, a small feu-proprietor in Linton, which he erected in 1666 at his sole expense, to perpetuate the memory of his beloved wife and five children. She is represented in a devout posture, on a pedestal, supported with four infants around her, and a fifth on her head." The children have disappeared.
Such Crosses as those of Inverary and Campbeltown can scarcely be looked upon as market crosses, having originally been memorial stones, which were brought from neighbouring churchyards. On both of these there are inscriptions, mentioning to whom they were erected.
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