Mab's Cross

Mab's Cross, in Wigan, Greater Manchester, is a stone cross probably dating from the 13th century SD58520626. The remains of the cross are a one metre square dressed gritstone block 0.57 metres (1.9 ft) high on top of a stone plinth and are protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade II* listed building. It was originally one of four stone crosses used as waymarkers along the medieval route from Wigan to Chorley. The cross no longer stands in its original position, having been moved across the road in 1922 as part of a road widening scheme.


According to local legend the cross is named after Lady Mabel Bradshaw. The legend says that when Sir William Bradshaw, her husband, failed to return from the crusades she married a Welsh knight; when Sir William returned from a ten year campaign, he murdered his wife's new husband in Newton-le-Willows while he was trying to escape. Lady Mabel did penance for her unintentional bigamy by walking from Haigh Hall to a stone cross in Wigan "bare footed and bare legged" once a week as long as she lived. In another version of the legend, the Welsh knight is named as Henry Teuther, Sir William is absent for seven years and was on pilgrimage rather than a crusade, also the penance involving the cross in not mentioned.


Sir William Bradshaw and his wife were real people. Sir William married Mabel Norris in 1295; she was the heiress of Blackrod and Haigh. His absence was not due to a pilgrimige or crusades. On 1 November 1315, Adam Banastre, Henry de Lea, and Sir William Bradshaw rebelled against Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster. The rebellion was ended when the Deputy Sheriff of Lancashire defeated the rebels in battle north of the Ribble; Bradshaw escaped and became an outlaw. In 1319, it was assumed that Sir William was dead. He returned to his estates after the Earl of Lancaster was executed following his defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322. Sir William was convicted and imprisoned in Kenilworth Castle, and later Pontefract Castle, before he was released in 1324. Rather than killing his wife's husband on Newton-le-Willows, it was Sir William himself who was slain there. On 16 August 1333, Sir William was killed in Newton-le-Willows in a fight with members of the Radcliffe family. There is no evidence that Lady Mabel remarried, either before or after her husband died, or that she did penance at the cross.