An Archaeology of Trafford in 12 Objects Part 5: The Great Stone, Stretford

The fifth piece in our festive look at the archaeology of Trafford in 12 objects, is an object known as The Great Stone. Lying on the eastern side of Chester Road in Stretford, at the entrance to Gorse Hill Park, this is a rectangular-shaped stone, which is 0.81m high, 1.58m long, and 0.41m wide. It has two rectangular slots carved into the top face, set at slightly different levels, the northern one being 220mm deep and 320mm by 240mm, whilst the southern one is 180mm deep and 360mm by 240mm.

Whilst not a portable object like many of the other items in this list, it has travelled some distance in antiquity and more recently. It has been identified as a glacial erratic sandstone boulder that was deposited in the Stretford area at end of the last Ice Age. Recorded in the early 19th century as lying on the southern side of Chester Road, it was suggested in 1887 that this position by the old Roman road was not its original location. It was then moved a few metres to the east to its current position in 1925, as part of the landscaping of the entrance to Gorse Hill Park.

Local legend records that the stone was thrown by a giant called Tarquin who lived in the castle at ‘Castlefield’ in Manchester, and who was defeated in a local battle by Sir Lancelot. The holes in the top of the stone were for his fingers and thumb. Another local tradition, recorded in 1834, suggests that it may have been re-used as a plague stone, and more recently the wear at one end of the stone has been suggested as evidence of its re-use as a mounting block.

Now protected as a Grade 2 listed structure, in fact, this is the base for late a Saxon cross of the tenth or eleventh centuries. Besides the Stretford cross-base, eight other such double-socketed stones are known from the south-western Pennines. These can be found at Bolsterstone, Ecclesfield, and Whaley Moor in Yorkshire, Disley Church Field and Disley Lyme Handley in Cheshire, Haslingden and Whalley in Lancashire, and Ludworth in Derbyshire. They probably had several purposes, with only those at Haslingden, Ecclesfield, and Whalley lying within church settings. The other stones may have marked sacred places like the spring at Disley Church Field, or acted as route or boundary markers. A nineteenth-century tradition recorded in Stretford in 1903 noted that if the stone was moved from the township then the local lords of the manor, the de Traffords, would lose their estates.

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2 thoughts on “An Archaeology of Trafford in 12 Objects Part 5: The Great Stone, Stretford

  1. Many thanks Mike. Brilliant. Having lived in Chorlton for many years and using Great Stone Road frequently we have often wondered what the ‘Great Stone’ was. Thanks for informing us.

  2. I was always led to believe that the quadrant on Greatstone road was once a Leper colony and the “Great stone” was a disinfectant stone in which the hollow concave would be filled with vinegar so that money paid for provisions could be sterilised.

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