AMBITIOUS plans to save a unique ancient monument in Winsford are finally being drawn up following years of campaigning by councillors.

Despite painstaking research, it has been impossible to confirm who owns the crumbling Over Cross monument on Delamere Street, Winsford town councillors were told at a remote meeting last Monday.

The Saxon cross was built in the 19th century and includes a lock-up where people who cheated, robbed or were drunk at the market could be held awaiting trial.

The concrete structure sits on top of nine steps beside Over St John's CE Primary School, which was a market before Lord Delamere converted the building into a school.

Investigative work has been carried out by Cheshire West and Chester Council to look at the the ownership, structural condition and options for repair of the Grade II listed building.

An action plan has now been put together to examine the damage by drilling non invasive holes into the concrete and then using an endoscope to see inside.

It is hoped that laser surgery will be able to confirm whether or not there is a tunnel underneath. Photographs will be taken to document all the work.

Winsford town councillors have been asked to contribute £5,000 in match funding towards the renovation project as further funding bids are being made to Wren and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Members pledged their support for the work and decided to discuss the matter in detail in September when more information will be available.

Town clerk Mark Bailey said: "The ownership of the cross has never been clear. When local government was reorganised in 1974, Winsford Urban District Council had responsibility for this structure. But no one has been able to find any documents which said the cross came to Winsford Town Council. It is still a mystery.

Winsford Guardian:

Former Winsford Cllr and resident Charlie Parkinson has campaigned tirelessly for the Over Cross monument to be restored

"It is an asset historically and from a heritage point of view but it will need to be maintained and that will cost money.

"The structure is fantastic. It is a historical oddity that needs to be retained for a town which has lost so much. It is a credit to Cheshire West and Chester Council that they have created this project with the aim of trying to sort this out."

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Cllr Dave Edwards said: "I remember sitting on the cross as a young lad when I went to school in the 1970s. We have lost a lot of Winsford heritage and now we can actively get involved in saving it.

"Charlie Parkinson worked very hard to keep this in the limelight. Let's hope we get a positive result in keeping it maintained for the people of Winsford."

Mr Parkinson said: "What concerns me is that a lot of children are climbing on it every day, eventually it is going to go. Anybody who has been there can see it's falling to pieces at the right hand side at the bottom. It's obviously a problem with the root of the tree. We are trying to preserve what is left."

Listed building consent will be required for the work.

Winsford Historical Society and Over St John's CE Primary School have said they would be very keen to get involved in a community project around the history of the cross.