Mr William Cross

All of the early residents of Winckley Square were members of the legal profession and close friends. Mr. William Cross, was the 'architect' of the project and first resident. He was the son of 'Honest' John Cross, attorney and Deputy Prothonotary for the Court of Common Pleas at Lancaster. Father and son lived in a house in Fishergate, William's mother having died shortly after his birth in 1771. In 1799, the year in which work commenced on the house in Winckley Street, John Cross died and William moved into the completed house with his maternal aunt, Mary Assheton (related to the Asshetons of Downham Hall) for it was she who had brought up the infant William Cross when his mother died.

On his father's death William Cross was appointed Deputy Prothonotary in his stead; the office adjoined his house in Winckley Street. In 1797, because of the threat of invasion from Napoleonic France, a regiment of Preston Royal Volunteers had been raised.

William Cross was commissioned Lieutenant in 1797 and Captain in 1798. There was in Preston at this time a Club, exclusively for gentlemen, with the odd title of the Oyster and Parched Pea Club. Its members, who were among the town's leading citizens, met weekly at each other's houses. The Club had many officers, such as Cellarius, who had to provide port of the first quality; Oystericus, who was in charge of the oysters; a Clerk of the Peas, an office always held by a member of the Gorst family, and a Rhymesmith. Such was William Cross, who had a great talent for verse.

Mr. Cross was a most welcome guest everywhere in the neighbourhood. He attended assemblies, plays and concerts, but was also deeply religious and attached to the Church of England. By the time he moved into Winckley Street, William Cross had long ago fallen in love with the country around Red Scar and the Horse Shoe Bend of the 'Sweet Ribble' as he called it. He bought Red Scar Cottage and spent all his weekends there, going to church at Grimsargh in the mornings, often walking home by Elston through the woods, and to church at Samlesbury - by boat - in the evenings. In 1813, when he was forty-two years of age, he married Ellen Chaffers of Liverpool. It was at this point that he took up residence permanently at Red Scar, having enlarged the original cottage into an Elizabethan-type house of considerable dimensions.

William and Ellen Cross enjoyed fourteen years of truly wedded bliss until, on a visit to Liverpool, William Cross caught a chill. Inflammation of the lungs developed and, as was the medical practice of the day, he was bled, literally to death. His widow was left with six children, the eldest of eleven years, the youngest of seven months. Everyone in the town mourned his passing. William Cross is buried in the chancel of Grimsargh Church. It was his widow, Ellen, along with the Trustees appointed by William Cross who negotiated all the subsequent sales of plots of land in the Square, imposing the most specific and stringent conditions upon the purchasers. She died in 1849 and lies with her husband in the chancel of Grimsargh Church. Members of the Cross family lived on at Red Scar until the nineteen-thirties when it was demolished to build Courtaulds Factory.

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© Marian Roberts 1996