The iconic cross of the North York Moors; used in the National Park’s logo. It is sited at Rosedale Head and although this current cross dates from the eighteenth century, a cross has stood here as a guidepost since the thirteen century.
It is not surprising that the cross is the subject of much folklore. In one story it was erected by the nuns of Rosedale Priory. Sometime in the thirteenth century, the nuns needed to settle a dispute with their sisters from Baysdale Priory and so the two prioresses agreed to meet up at Rosedale Head, roughly mid-way between the two priories. Elizabeth, from Rosedale set off guided by a lay man called Ralph; the Baysdale prioress, Margery, set off alone.
Approaching the head of the dale a roak came down. A roak is the mist or low cloud that often clings to the summit ridges. Elizabeth and Ralph arrived first. Margery arrived at what she thought was the right spot and waited. After some time Ralph went to look for Margery leaving Elizabeth alone.
Now you may think that I’m leading up to a tragic ending but eventually the roak cleared and all three found each other safe and well. Elizabeth had Ralph Cross erected as a guide post and and herself is remembered in a squat standing stone not too far away called Fat Betty.
A nun from Rosedale also features in another legend but this time in a romantic liaison with a monk from Farndale. It was as this spot that they frequently met until their superiors found out, when they both came to tragic ends. Quite un-Christian.
A third story comes from Danby. Another dale, another story. Ralph, a farmer from Danby, found a penniless traveller’s body at this spot. It so upset him that he erected this cross and had a hollow carved out at the top for wealthy travellers to leave coins for those less fortunate. The hollow is still there but nowadays any coins left are quickly pocketed.
And finally it is said that if three kings ever meet at Old Ralph Cross then the world will end.
There is another cross close by which is also named as Ralph so to distinguish it is referred to as Old Ralph Cross. This cross is smaller, just 5 feet high and also dates from the thirteenth century. It is said to be a memorial to another Ralph, the bishop of Guisborough.