Postcard from Legs Cross Bank

Having written this over 6 months ago I have since realised from the comments I never read that many on GP are still wedded to the Greco-Latin version of history.  It is ironic that the same people utter vitriol about ‘false news’ in the present day whilst not recognising that history is always written by the victors.  Other oral versions of history do of course exist and frequently correspond more accurately with the archaeological record.  As families disintegrate and official narratives become more readily available online we are losing the essence of what it means to be British.

Legs Cross Bank is the point at which the B6275 climbs up out of Tees Valley to Royal Oak on the A68 before descending again into Weardale.  The B6275 follows the route of the Roman Road, Dere Street, from Piercebridge (Morbium) to Bishop Auckland (Binchester / Vinovia / Vinovium).  This remained the route of the main military road into Scotland and the A68 from Scotch Corner to Carter Bar until the A1M Darlington By Pass was opened in 1965.

Halfway up the bank the B6275 is crossed by a minor road called Brownside Lane connecting the village of Bolam with the current A68 and Darlington.  On the south west side of the junction is a rough lay-by with an even rougher footpath leading through a bed of nettles to a stile into the adjacent field.  Here stands a heavily weathered stone monument from which there are spectacular views across the Tees Valley to the Yorkshire Dales (The Stang) and North Yorkshire Moors (Roseberry Topping).

According to Wikipedia this is an Anglo Saxon cross base and shaft on a pilgrimage route that no one who lives in the area has ever heard of.  An alternative explanation offered is that it was a boundary marker, although again no one knows what it was marking the boundary of.  There are various imaginative explanations as to how it acquired the name of Legs Cross.

According to my family who have lived in the area since before Roman times it was erected by the tenth legion of Rome and bore the very simple inscription LEG.X.  This would have been the Legio decima Gemina, who were originally Julius Caesar’s crack troops and used for hunting down and destroying the previous Celtic rulers of Western Europe.  (One of their main fortresses lies a few miles south of here).  The shaft was supposed to support a goddess and not a Christian cross.  The goddess was described as a ‘winged Venus’ which is not normal.  It seems probable that the monument was an altar to Venus, who was venerated by the 10th Legion, but bore an image of Nike, the winged goddess of victory.  It overlooks the heartland of the Brigantes, the people that the 10th legion spent the best part of half a millennium trying to annihilate: in the Rhineland, North West Spain and Britain.  They failed.

© Bebi Seasick 2018

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