Mercat Cross

A feature of most Scottish towns, and larger villages, was a Mercat Cross, an indication that the town or village had been granted the right to hold a market. The history of these is here, and there are 126 surviving ones in Scotland, although many have had substantial renovations.

One of the better known is that at Culross in Fife, which featured in the Outlander TV series and also in the 1971 version of the Robert Louis Stevenson Classic “Kidnapped”. The Culross Mercat Cross is below.

I decided to model a Mercat Cross. Despite their name, they are not actually crosses, but are normally surmounted by a Finial, the most common version of which is a Scottish unicorn supporting a shield, the latter emblazoned with the Lion Rampant of Scotland.

I looked for a suitable model and decided to convert an excellent free download from the Wordsworth Model Railway website of their War Memorial.

The original Wordworth Model Railway War Memorial Cross download is here.

The original download was OO scale, but I wanted it to fit in with my 15mm buildings (one scale down from my 1:72 (23mm) scale figures. I experimented with resizing it until I got the base to be about 30mm wide, which looked right. I then used Paint to copy three more bases, each progressively reduced by 70% from the one before. Although the surface area of each base was reduced, I needed the steps to be the same height, so made strips to use as steps.

I also made a wide strip to cover the column. Lastly I made some darker sections to make the Capital, the square box on the top of the column. Here is my modified template, before cutting it out.

Below are the components of the plinth, or base steps, showing each of the levels of the plinth in a separate row. I used two layers of 1mm card for each layer. I cut out a circle from the upper layer of the bottom step, so as to glue a washer in it it add weight.

Here is the base plinth assembled. I have drawn a line on the angles of the steps to highlight these.

I made the pillar from a cut-off piece of old pencil then glued the paper representing the pillar around it.

Here is the completed pillar.

The next stage was to model the Capital (box on top of the column) and Finial on top of that. Here is the real one at Culross. In the Middle Ages they may have had crosses, following older Catholic traditions, but following the Scottish reformation most towns and large villages in Scotland were Episcopalian (Anglican) or Presbyterian, so replaced the crosses with Finials.

Here are the elements of the Capital. At the bottom, two card squares with their tops chamfered, two squares of paper to cover these, a cube made from three layers of 1mm card and a strip of paper to wrap around that. Finally at the top are four small bits of cut off hairgrips and four pieces of paper to wrap around those to form corner columns.

Here are the top and bottom of the Capital formed by gluing the paper around the card.

Here is the completed Capital, with the pillars on the corners. The chamfered edges of the top and bottom face outwards. I have stuck an extra square of paper of the top.

I used an old Airfix Farm Set sheepdog to convert to a unicorn, welding his ruff down into the crown around the unicorn neck, and adding a horn. The shield is plastic from a milk bottle with thin plastic smeared on to create a bas-relief Lion Rampant. The base is welded plastic sprue.

Here is my completed Mercat Cross model. I painted the base of the Finial in the same dark grey as the Capital, whilst the unicorn finial itself and the shield are painted in a lighter grey.

I wanted to finish with a photo of the Mercat Cross in a town square, but realised that would probably be cobbled (Culross certainly is) and I did not have any cobbled surfaces. Fortunately there is a section of cobbled paving in the Wordsworth Model Railway website (under “Brick Paper”, which also includes roof tiles and cobbles). I printed this onto 220 gsm card and cut out three squares, 6″, 4″ and 3″.

The Wordsworth Model Railway cobbles have kerbstone edging on two sides of them. I used Paint to modify this into four strips of cobbled street, each strip edged on both sides with kerbstones. My cobbled streets are 50mm wide and 11.5 mm long. I printed these then cut out two full size strips and four half size (5.75mm long) strips.

Finally here is my Scottish town centre, complete with a Mercat Cross. The buildings are all 15mm Paper Terrain, from their European Collection, several converted as an inn and various shops.

Next I am going to make some more hedges, including some with gates.

9 thoughts on “Mercat Cross

  1. mosstrooper7 November 21, 2020 / 3:24 pm

    Good conversion ! , like the idea for the unicorn !

    Like

    • rodwargaming November 21, 2020 / 3:59 pm

      I have a box of plastic bags full of various animals, oxen (Torres wine bulls), camels, elephants, cattle, sheep and jungle (Airfix Tarzan set) but the sheepdog was the only one of the right size. It is very old, perhaps 50 years, so the plastic tried to melt rather than weld, but with a bit of care I managed it.
      Rod

      Like

  2. Steve Wroblicky November 21, 2020 / 5:57 pm

    Great work. I have really enjoyed reading about your improvisations to make it all come together.

    Like

    • rodwargaming November 21, 2020 / 6:40 pm

      Hi Steve,
      Glad you liked it. I learned quite a bit researching it.
      Best wishes
      Rod

      Like

  3. Pete S/ SP November 21, 2020 / 6:54 pm

    That is a really nice bit of modelling.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

    Like

  4. rodwargaming November 21, 2020 / 7:18 pm

    Hi Pete,
    I kept reading in historical and fictional accounts of the Jacobite era about Mercat Crosses, so googled them and researched them. I learned a lot from that.
    Rod

    Like

  5. Peter November 22, 2020 / 1:36 pm

    Hi Rod,

    Nice job done!

    Maybe some idea to explore the mercat cross (with some pulpit?) to make just like the one in Edinburgh where Charles adressed the highlanders to declare he was PR. Or am I mistaken this took place? I live in The Netherlands and have a keen interest in the 45.

    Cheers Peter van Vugt

    Like

    • rodwargaming November 22, 2020 / 2:07 pm

      Hi Peter,

      I understand that of the 126 Mercat Crosses in Scotland, just five have a substructure (Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Preston). You can see images of these on this Wikipedia site:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercat_cross

      I decided to make a simple typical one, but might revisit that later.
      You are correct about Prince Charles making his proclamation from the Edinburgh cross. One of the functions of all Mercat Crosses was to provide a location to make official announcements from.

      Best wishes

      Rod

      Like

      • Peter van Vugt November 23, 2020 / 1:28 pm

        Hi Rod,

        Thank you for outlining your thoughts. I think you create little masterpieces.

        Best wishes

        Peter

        Like

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