Shepherd's Cross

Grade: II
Date Listed: 13 April 1951
English Heritage Building ID: 275252

OS Grid Reference: SJ8963060429
OS Grid Coordinates: 389630, 360429
Latitude/Longitude: 53.1409, -2.1565

Overton, Biddulph.

Standing by the roadside on Overton Road in an enclosure is Shepherd's Cross also known as the Butter Cross. It is a rough hewn-stone monolith that has been shaped into a cross. The dimensions of the cross are as follows:

Height (above ground): 65 inches (approximately)
Front and back: 18½ inches (approximately)
Cross Shaft (broken): 24 inches (approximately)
Side Widths: 15 inches (approximately)

The cross itself is said to date possibly from the 14th Century and may even be of Saxon origin. It is unknown for sure what date the cross is from and may even have been carved from a pre-historic megalith. From the front the cross looks like it was very neatly cut out of a solid block. It also has some strange markings on the front and incisions about ½ inch in depth, while the back looks completely different and may even be the original front.

Taking a look at the picture below, you can vaguely see what appears to be some kind of face within the rock at the back (looks similar to a bear). Was this intentional? Was it carved this way originally? Is it some kind of Green Man? Or was it our local deity? Is this the reason behind the name Bidolf?

[As in Anglo-Saxon bi can mean bee and dolf can mean wolf, so it has the same meaning as the legendary hero Beowulf, which really means a bear, due to the Anglo-Saxons associating the bear as an animal with a dog / wolf type face who eats honey (Bee-Wolf)].

The front that is now the cross looks like it could have been flattened by the cross carving from its real look of being the back of an animal or person. The unknown markings down it could have been the spine. You can also see from the picture of the front below that the top of the cross has a slant to one side. Is this weathering? Is it just damaged? or is it a head tilted? I have also noticed that the front, from a distance, does look like the back of a person or upright animal.

The enclosure that the cross sits in is most probably of a much more recent date; however there are stones that seem to circle the cross which are not easily seen due to the vegetation around it. These seem to be of an earlier age than the enclosure itself.

The name Shepherd's Cross is probably due to some people believing it to be a wayside marker for farmers, whereas the name Butter Cross comes from the fact that about 100 years ago people use to sell butter from here. This fact was confirmed by an old lady who lived as a child on Biddulph Moor who told me she remembered "a woman selling butter by the cross".

Back of Cross (Can you see a face?) The Cross and it's enclosure

Many people believe that it is some kind of way marker, or Pilgrims Cross. It does however seem strange that it stands in a place that can be a marker for visiting the Bridestones Neolithic burial chamber, which is nearby.

Directly opposite the cross are two stone troughs that are built within a larger enclosure. I have been told that these troughs were used as a water hole for horses etc. These troughs are also of a much later date than the cross itself.

Two Stone Troughs

Further along the road on the right is a field, which also has some kind of stone monolith. Nothing is known about this, and I was unable to visit it close up as I do not know who owns the property to ask for permission.

Monolith in field

Tim Cockin's "The Staffordshire Encyclopaedia". Malthouse Press states:

"A 1.2mt high, very worn wayside cross 150mt south of the junction of Grange Road and Biddulph Park Road and is said to have been erected in the 14th century. It is situated in the old manor of Overton and may be of Saxon origin, in Biddulph Park. Or it was carved into the form of a cross out of stone which has been on this site since ancient times and preserves the site of a possible Druids Grove. This Shepherd's Cross is at the north end of a "Iey line" stretching from the Old Man of Mow and running through Beacon House and Biddulph Old Hall. On the opposite side of the road is a drinking fountain."

See all photographs in album


Compiled and written by Robert Worrall (Curator, Biddulph Museum)

Sources and Credits:
The Staffordshire Encyclopaedia - Malthouse Press
Photographs and measurements by Robert Worrall (Biddulph Museum)
Various local residents for myths about the stone
English Heritage
British Listed Buildings Online

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