6th November 1944 - Alderley-Crewe-Shrewsbury

Up early, and left at 9.  Lovely sunny morning.  The country looked beautiful, the best time of the autumn.

The road was good and soon made the 8 miles to Holmes Chapel.  Through Brereton Green then turned right towards Sandbach, passed a posse of USA police.

In Sandbach noticed a road sign indicating “To the Ancient Crosses”, and wondering what these could be, followed the direction to the Market Square.  On the far side, are two beautiful Saxon crosses, set side by side on an ancient stone pedestal, their bases made of huge blocks, both of them carved with figure, scrolls, leaf designs etc.

I don't think I have ever been so surprised before.  I have never heard of the crosses, and had no idea that Saxon crosses of such quality existed in situ anywhere in this country.  Both shafts have been repaired, and the actual cross heads are missing, but the remains are certainly one of the most astonishing monuments in this country.  There is no name plate or label of any kind on them.

At the other end of the market place is the War Memorial, in the form of a medieval cross, and the square is surrounded by ancient buildings, timbered and brick, mostly inns, one of which, The Bear, is dated 1634.  This is a fine old black timbered house in the Cheshire style.

I visited the church and an elderly gentlemen walked in so I asked about the crosses.
“Those crosses, sir,” he said “were put up in King Penda’s time, one when he became a Christian and the other when he married.”

He told me to collect a guidebook from the Council Office – “Tell ‘em G. Roscoe sent you”.  Told me he was over 80 and his wife wanted to leave him.  Felt dreadfully sorry for the poor old man.  What on earth could he have done, at more than 80, to make his wife want to leave him.

Called at Council’s Office collected guide, and went on in the direction of Crewe.  Stopped for a glass of cider at the Nags Head at Wheelock, and then on to Crewe, the most incredibly ugly town.  Cycled to the station and got a few sandwiches and coffee.  The usual big crowds, soldiers, civilians, etc.  Bought 2 Penguin “New Writings” paperbacks which I have never seen.

On the line, near Nantwich, saw a magnificent engine, newly painted and polished, called “Duchess of Buccleuch”.  Down to Whitchurch and then at last Shrewsbury and away over the Welsh Bridge through Frankwell, and up onto the Welshpool Road.  Rain coming on hard.  Cycled on longingly, thinking of the Lodge, but with a fear at the back of my mind.  Past Ford, past Crossgates, under the railway, and then onto the Rowton Road.  Dark now, and myself wet through.

Then the cottage, low, redbrick, rain streaming off the roof, and gleams of light coming through cracks in the blinds.  Knocked at the door.  Mary opened it.  I said “Hello,” she said “Hello, it’s you, is it?  Come in.”  Miss Walker was sitting beside the fire, and tea on the table.  They said, “Hullo, where have you come from?”  [Mary Hulbert had been Rudsdale's girlfriend in the early 1930s]

The fire was bright, and I had tea and mutton.  Yet somehow something was lacking.  They bustled about chattering rather peevishly about work and their little private affairs.  Somehow I had hoped they would stop work for an hour or so, but no, an unexpected visitor from far away meant nothing to them.

We had a little talk about farming, but Mary is so irritatingly optimistic and knows nothing about what is going on anyway.

They set up a camp bed in the little room, in a rather grudging manner, and gave me a few blankets and a pillow, so I did not undress.  The rain stopped, and the moon rose far off on the other side of England.

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