In 1570, the accounts of Sheffield Parish Church show that a stone cross in its grounds was pulled down and sold to George Tynker. Made of sandstone, the Anglo-Saxon cross vanished, its whereabouts unknown, until it resurfaced in the early 1800s, hollowed out and missing its horizontal beam, used as a quenching trough at a cutler’s workshop in the Park district.
At some point, in the late 18th or early 19th century, the cross-shaft was spotted by William Staniforth, a surgeon, who gave it to his son, John, of Westbourne, on Whitham Road, Broomhill.
John Staniforth, a solicitor, used the old cross as a garden ornament and an old map showed its position, but designated it a ‘stone coffin.’
He died in 1848, the ornament remaining in the garden, but subsequently became the property of his son, John Walter Staniforth, a merchant, who in later years moved it to his garden at Fairholme, on Oakholme Road.
It seems the old stone trough, remembered by Sheffield folk, came with provenance.
The 153cm high statuary had on its main face an archer kneeling at the foot of a vine scroll, with vine scroll decoration on two sides. It was recognised as being part of a free-standing cross that played an important part in the Anglo-Saxon Christian Church.
This one was believed to have originated in Derbyshire and stood on the site of the future Sheffield Parish Church (eventually to become Sheffield Cathedral) before being removed in 1570. A replica was thought to have been cast in 1876.
John Walter Staniforth died in 1904 and his widow, Gertrude, donated the garden trough to the British Museum in 1924.
In 1939, Dr A.C.E. Jones, Provost of Sheffield Cathedral, mounted an unsuccessful campaign to have the cross returned and given a permanent home inside the Cathedral or within its grounds.
‘Anglian Cross from Sheffield’ has remained at the British Museum ever since, but briefly returned to the city for an exhibition at the Cathedral in 1991 and was later exhibited in Mumbai and New Delhi.
The replica is owned by Museums Sheffield at the Mappin Art Gallery, and the Sheffield Cross is celebrated in statuary high-up between two windows within Sheffield Cathedral, displayed in its original whole form.
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