Districts split Saxon cross to settle 150-year feud

Click to follow

After a feud lasting 150 years, involving theft, vandalism and municipal threats of legal action, two districts in Yorkshire reached an unusual settlement yesterday over a 1,000-year-old Saxon cross.

After a feud lasting 150 years, involving theft, vandalism and municipal threats of legal action, two districts in Yorkshire reached an unusual settlement yesterday over a 1,000-year-old Saxon cross.

New Mill in West Yorkshire and Dunford in South Yorkshire have decided that the only way of resolving their differences over the 8ft-high Maythorne Cross is to split it. Dunford gets the ancient base; New Mill gets the rest.

It was erected as a boundary marker at a cross-roads between Cheshire and Wakefield. The dispute was sparked by Dr Henry Morehouse, a local historian and collector, in the 1850s. With the aid of a horse-drawn cart and several men, Dr Morehouse stole the cross from its ancient site near the hamlet of Victoria, in Dunford, added a new column and ball, and placed it in his own garden.

One of his descendants moved it four miles to the grave of his favourite horse, where he left it on a poorly laid foundation for decades. After it was vandalised in 1959, Kirklees council stepped in, restored the cross and gave it to the local civic society, which placed it outside the village library in 1984.

When the library closed the battle began again in earnest. After there was talk of the monument being removed, a local roofing contractor, Gerald Parker, recruited eight other men and launched a dawn raid in June 2000, claiming the cross belonged to his in-laws' ancestors. He dug it up, loaded it on a lorry and took it back to Victoria. The note he left behind said: "Gone home."

Kirklees council was unimpressed, issuing a legal threat to Mr Parker: "We request that you return the cross in a safe and unharmed condition."

Mr Parker held out for a settlement, keeping his new possession in a field.

And his local parish, Dunford, seems to have secured the most from yesterday's deal. Allen Pestell, a councillor, said: "It is like the Elgin Marbles being returned to Greece. Gerald did not act with our blessing and as a councillor I cannot condone taking the cross, but we cannot condemn him. If he hadn't snatched back the cross, we would never have seen it again in the parish." Mr Parker said: "We tried to tell New Mill they were in possession of stolen goods. When I heard it was going to be moved again I thought we could lose it for ever. We'll have to make sure the cross is firmly embedded this time. We don't want anybody stealing it again."

Clifford Lord, of the civic society in New Mill, said: "We were not happy about the way the cross was removed from New Mill. It's a bit of a farce, us just having the top half of the cross which is not original. But at least the arguing is over."

Comments