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The Cross

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The Cross.

In antiquity, the area around the Cross was where the Malpas village fairs and markets were held.

An early picture looking up Church Street gives an view of an earlier Cross.

the cross 1800s
The Cross circa 1900

Did you know that once upon a time the road ran either side of the Cross?

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

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

Picture 2 below is a photograph. This would seemingly suggesting that the highway went both sides of the Cross.

Until very recently it was never recognised by Cheshire West Council as being part of their highway network.

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

It is of interest to note that in the above photograph there is ongoing construction work of the old Post Office front taking place. This has recently been removed and the property returned to a private residence.

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.

The precise date when the road was closed off and the steps built has yet to be established.
However, from the two maps below, we can deduce that it was some time after 1st January 1904 and before 1911.

malpas cross 1904
Malpas Map 1904

malpas cross 1911
Malpas Map 1911

The bollards may have been a later addition as can be seen in the picture below.

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.

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

1895 thunderstorm

There is evidence outside the Malpas Barbeque that Church Street road level was raised. (See the sunken pavement)
It may have been that during repairs to the streets, 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

The steps were erected post 1904 and it is therefore 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 17th June 2024 by Chris Whitehurst.

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