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The Cross

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Did you know that once upon a time you could pass either side of the Cross?

an old illustration of the cross
A postcard picture of Malpas Cross

The first picture is obviously from a sketch so it could perhaps be deemed as artistic licence.

Picture 2 is a photograph. This would seemingly suggesting that the highway went both sides of the Cross.
However, in antiquity it was part of the area where the village fairs and markets were held.
Until very recently it was never recognised by Cheshire West Council as being part of their highway network.

The Pet Stop was at that time Bentley's cycle shop, and who remembers Salts shop where until 2021 the Co-op store was also located.

another old picture of malpas cross
An old photograph of Church Street looking towards The Cross. This illustrates that the road once went the other side of the Cross where the steps exist today.

Note the Horse Traffic only
The other interest of note in the above photograph is the ongoing construction of the old Post Office front. This has recently been removed and the property returned to a private residence.

The picture below gives a view of the Cross looking up Church Street.

the cross 1800s
The Cross circa 1800's

It has yet to be fully established, but the closest guess we have at present is that the thoroughfare was closed off with bollards and the steps constructed sometime before 1912. (See the picture below)

Ahhh!! those were the days when there was no congestion on Church Street.

picture of malpas cross in 1912
An old photograph of the Cross in 1912,. This is evidence that the current steps were installed sometime prior to 1912

The above picture shows the road closed up and built up with a set of steps.

There was a tremendous thunderstorm on 26th June 1895 which washed away the pavements in the High Street. It may have been that this storm was actually responsible for Church Street being washed away also.

1895 thunderstorm

There is evidence outside the Malpas Barbeque that Church Street road level was raised.(sunken pavement)
It may have been that during repairs to the High Street, the steps at the side of the Cross were also installed.

Prior to 1929, Malpas Rural District Council would have been the highway authority for the minor roads in Malpas (was Church Street one of these?).

From 1929 the County Council was the highway authority for all roads in the County, until its abolition.

Post-1974 Chester City Council took over some of the powers of the Rural District Councils (Tarvin RDC in the case of Malpas, from 1936), whilst others went to the Parish Councils – but it was never the highway authority (although confusingly it had a highways committee who acted for the County Council under an agency agreement.)

The Chester City Council's highways staff (who looked after roads only in the pre-1974 Chester City area) transferred to the County Council in 1974

I the steps were erected post -1894 it is likely that the old Malpas Rural District Council (MRDC) undertook the work and maintained them afterwards.
The unanswered question is whether it did this as the highway authority or under one of its other many powers.

Of course the RDC wouldn't have needed a stopping up order if it merely stopped the use of that stretch of the highway by vehicles – a footway (including steps) is as much a part of the highway as a carriageway.

The answer to the key to the question lies in the minutes of the Malpas Rural District Council, which presumably lie in the record office in Duke Street, Chester.

carols around the cross
Denise Rylands's painting of carols around The Cross

Article updated 8th January 2024 by Chris Whitehurst.

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