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Stevington Village Cross

The Village Cross December 2008
The Village Cross December 2008

The Village Cross was listed by the former Department of Environment in July 1964 as Grade II*, of special interest and particularly important. The department dated it to the 14th century.

Perhaps the first reference to the cross is in 1279 in a Hundred Roll, which was translated and published by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in Volume 69 of 1990. The Willey Hundred Roll contains two individuals from Stevington called Adam ad Crucem and Mable at Crucem - ad Crucem is Latin for "at the Cross". This would mean either that the date posited by the Department of Environment is out by at least 21 years (not at all unlikely given that stylistic evidence in dating is not a precise science) or that today's cross replaced an older one.

It is not known where the medieval cross stood, but its present location, at the junction of four well established roads seems quite reasonable. A Stevington Manorial Court roll of 1765 noted a property standing on the corner of Silver Street next the cross.

In the Middle Ages the cross would have been a place where open air preachers spoke to the faithful. There is a legend that John Bunyan preached at Stevington cross; this has sprung from his words in Pilgrim's Progress: "He ran till he came to a Place somewhat ascending and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below in the bottom, a Sepulchre". Too much, perhaps, can be made of every part of the landscape of the book having a Bedfordshire counterpart and, certainly, there is no evidence of his ever having visited Stevington. His church in Bedford had links with the West End Baptist Meeting but that is all.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has records relating to the repair and upkeep of the cross. In 1888 the vestry discussed the condition of the cross [P71/8/3] and in 1956 the Local Government Committee of Bedfordshire County Council resolved to contribute £60 towards the repair of the cross [LGM4].

The Bedfordshire Times of 16th January 1959 published a photograph showing damage to the base of the cross by a passing motor vehicle. Stevington Historical Trust in their excellent publication of 1999 Stevington: The Village History devote the best part of six pages to a detailed history of this iconic structure.

The Village Cross - detail December 2008
The Village Cross - detail December 2008