This is an extract taken from Robert Henderson's "More Scottish
Keeriosities" St Andrew Press 1995. I'd better declare an interest:
Bob's my brother-in-law :-)
Before the advent of 'seven-day opening' supermarkets there were shops,
and before shops there were not-so-super markets where goods and
livestock were traded on only one or two days a week.
Markets, super or otherwise, have come to be associated with towns. In
the early days, the right to hold a market was restricted to burghs and
this lucrative privilege was publicised the presence of a mercat cross.
A mercat cross was seen as a status symbol and was viewed as the
mediaeval equivalent of a modern shopping centre. To ensure it was
suitably prominent, the cross was usually tall stone shaft raised up on
steps and capped by some sort of insignia. To confuse matters, few
mercat crosses were topped by a cross. A notable exception can be seen
at Ormiston, East Lothian, where there is a fifteenth century cross.
Royal burghs, with charters granted by the king, usually publicised
their special status by crowning their crosses with heraldic beasts like
unicorns. Many fine examples exist, particularly in Fife within the
former royal burghs.
The most ornate of the original crosses are the seventeenth century
versions at Preston, East Lothian, and Aberdeen. The latter has a
unique series of what may be irreverently described as royal 'mug
shots', with a display of ten carved stone portraits of all the Stewart
kings. Both crosses are within circular rotunda from which the town
crier used to make announcements. In this way mercat crosses took on
the role not only of shopping centre, but also of local newspaper.
At one time there were close links between going shopping and going to
church - Sunday trading was sometimes actually carried on right outside
a church. Before the Reformation, fairs and markets were often held in
churchyards, as indicated by the presence of a market cross. Moray
District still has a number of examples within churchyards, such as that
of St Peter's Church at Duffus. A close connection between church and
shop can also be seen at Kirriemuir, Angus, where a number of houses
have windows facing on to the churchyard to allow goods to be sold on
days when fairs were held.
Ken BULLEN wrote:
Just received some information that need a little clarification...
"The Mecat Cross is sited on the Crossbrae immediately in front of the old
Mason's Howff, No 24 Main Street, Kilwinning."
(1) What is "The Mercat or Mecat Cross" ?
(2) What is "The Crossbrae" ?
(3) What is "The Old Mason's Howff ? (is this a misspelling of House ?)
Any help will be greatly appreciated.
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