No one seems entirely certain why the original Hurst Cross existed. Was it a medieval marker on the lonely road to Oldham? Was it the site of a Roman resting place? Or was it an imitation of the crosses erected by Edward I in memory of his wife, Eleanor?
It doesn’t really matter. The Hurst Cross monument we have inherited from the Victorians has become one of Tameside’s best-known landmarks. So I am delighted that at the same time as carrying out essential road-safety work to make the junction safer around Queens Road, Nook Lane and Kings Road, the Council has been able to restore the cross. It will be moved a few yards, cleaned and lit, and it will still dominate the area as it has since Hurst was a village entirely separate to Ashton.
We are planning to have a “reopening” ceremony in the middle of February when we will place a new time capsule in the structure to go alongside the bottle put there in 1868 when Hurst Cross was built. Unfortunately, the ensuing 146 years hadn’t been kind and all we found was a perished newspaper and a halfpenny. Keep an eye on our website tameside.gov.uk or our Facebook and Twitter feeds for the date and time.
The project will do much to improve an area where there have been 11 road accidents over the last five years. Research shows that safety schemes such as the one being carried out in Hurst Cross have a proven record of reducing accidents and protecting drivers and pedestrians. More than three-quarters of the project’s £260,000 cost is being paid by the Greater Manchester Casualty Reduction Partnership Award Fund.
When the cross was originally unveiled, Silas Andrew, a member of the old Hurst Local Board, gave a speech in which he promised to take care of the monument and hoped that the board’s successors would do the same. I like to think Silas would be happy if he could see how Tameside Council is preserving the cross for future generations.