Historic circle of sanctuary restored by city's Rotarians

Brian Dooks FOR 600 years fugitives from the law knew they were safe when they reached a circle of sanctuary crosses around the ancient City of Ripon. Now only one remains – the stub of Sharow Cross on the north east side of Ripon, which was one of the first artifacts in Britain to come into the care of the National Trust.

Now the two Rotary Clubs in Ripon are to restore five of the original eight markers to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rotary International.

In 926AD King Athelstan granted sanctuary within the 'liberty' of St Wilfrid, the Cathedral's patron saint, to anyone inside the marker crosses or who reached the 'frith' or peace stool in the Cathedral.

It lasted until the Reformation in 1540AD when secular authorities became responsible for law and order. Gradually the sanctuary crosses fell into disrepair and disappeared.

Their restoration was a long-term aim to create a new tourist trail, but was a low priority because the cost was estimated at around 150,000.

Then Rotary International, which celebrates its centenary in February next year, challenged its 30,000 members in 160 countries to carry out projects which would last another 100 years.

As a result, later this month Ripon Rotary Club and Ripon Rowels Rotary Club will put in place the first of five sanctuary markers at Bridge Hewick on the east side of the city.

They are stone gate pillars rescued from West Yorkshire. Stonemason Peter Hixon has inscribed crosses in their tops. Mr Hixon, who trained with one of the cathedral's stonemasons, the late Frank Marshall, is now contracts manager for Historic Property Restoration.

The Sanctuary markers will be positioned by Lee Hill Construction, whose director David Allinson, found the stones. The others will be placed near Ripon Golf Club in Palace Road, Kirkby Road near the cemetery, Hell Wath and Gallows Hill.

Ripon Rotary Club's centennial president, John Richmond, hopes a sixth sanctuary marker will later be placed at Quarry Moor. All will carry plaques designed by pupils at Ripon College under their art and technology teacher Steve Carrigan.

Mr Richmond, a former Mayor and Honorary Freeman of Ripon, said Harrogate Council's conservation and design manager David Rhodes had encouraged the reinstatement and local historian the late Mike Younge and past president of Ripon Rowels, Jonathan Beer, had all worked on it.

Mr Richmond said: "I think it is a fantastic project and it will certainly fulfil the wishes of Rotary International and last another 100 years."