IT has been the focal point of village life for centuries and yet little is known of the origins of Lymm Cross. All that is known for sure is that the distinctive sandstone landmark can be traced back to the 17th century and is the only Grade I listed structure in the Warrington area.

Joe Griffiths, of Lymm History Society, said: "There has been a settlement in the village for hundreds of years and it is mentioned in some of the earliest documents but they do not include The Cross. As to why it was built, who knows?"

After once being common place across the country, Lymm Cross is now one of the only few remaining of its kind.

From the advent of Christianity to the reformation in the 16th century, thousands of crosses were erected.

Those built before the 13th century, such as Sandbach's Saxon Crosses, usually had tall shafts set in sockets with a cross on the top.

Others from late medieval times had plain shafts and often had masonry canopies at the top of rows of steps.

These characteristics clearly belong to the monument at Lymm but the Cross we see today might have possibly replaced an older one from Saxon or even Roman times.

The stem of Lymm Cross is supported by four pillars and surmounted by gables and finials bearing the legends Save Time', Think of the Last' and We are a Shadow'. There are also three sundials on the West, South and East faces.

Crosses were originally there to remind people of their commitment to God - with the name and sometimes the shape of the structures clearly a reference to Christ's crucifixion.

They have also had many practical uses such as road and boundary markers, memorials and preaching places.

However, the purpose of the one at Lymm is a mystery. Many have commented that it resembles a market cross in a market square but there is no evidence that there has ever been a market there.

Others have suggested it used to be a place of worship before the village had its own church.

Joe added: "It is a focal point of the village where everything happens. It is where the town crier does his proclamations and it is a common meeting point.

"I recently did some history talks for local schools and all the children knew The Cross and had all played on The Cross.

"It gives Lymm a sense of identity and is a prominent landmark for people to associate with."