The Cross Tree
The Cross Tree
The Cross Tree is one of the landmarks of Moretonhampstead and there is plenty of information in both the History and Legend pages of this website about this famous tree. The tree has had numerous names including the Dancing Tree and is a copper beech that replaced the original elm tree which blew down in a gale in 1903. At its base are the remains of an ancient cross, a remnant of the original Old Market Cross that was the preaching point around which Moretonhampstead first established itself as a village. The cross was mentioned before 1636 and at the time all the land from the Alms Houses to the 'New Cut' belonged to the church. The Cross, as with other villages, held holy water. By chance a seed fell into the ground beside the cross and grew into a large elm tree. The roots ousted the cross, which fell, breaking the shaft and leaving the head. In the centre of the face ofthe head is a Greek Tau Cross. The tree grew and became the pride of the town. In 1799 a Mr John Hancock opened an inn next to the tree and had the tree pollarded into the shape of a bowl (hence another name - the Punch Bowl Tree) and a platform was erected around the side of the tree, railed on each side. There was sufficient room for thirty people to sit around the tree and six couples to dance, besides the orchestra. French officers on parole often assembled at the tree with their band.