I first came across a description of Hollow Ways in the excellent book “England in Particular: A Celebration of the Commonplace, the Local, the Vernacular and the Distinctive” by Sue Clifford and Angela King.
They describe Hollow Ways as “…those curious rural tracks that have been gradually ground out from hillsides by generations of pedestrians”.
As ever whilst looking for somthing else, I found out that there are several hollow ways nearby – leading East from Farewell, on the Parish boundary between Farewell and Chorley and Burntwood, Cross in Hand Lane and in the Maple Hayes area (Abnalls Lane) amongst others.
It seems from this description in ‘Lichfield: Domestic buildings and communications’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990) that Cross in Hand Lane was the road to Stafford until 1770.
“In the north of the city the road followed Beacon Street, described as the road to Stafford in the later 13th century, and Cross in Hand Lane. It branched off to follow the lane running along the north-west boundary which was still known as Old London Road in 1835. The cross with the hand which stood at the fork by the 15th century was probably a direction post. In 1770 the course of the road was straightened to avoid the hollow way in Cross in Hand Lane by means of a new line to the east, the present Stafford Road.”
There are records of a medieval cross between Beacon Street and Cross in Hand Lane, but no trace of this cross has been seen. I have seen two theories for the name Cross in Hand. Firstly, according to ‘Townships: Burntwood’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), the area “..took its name from ‘the cross with the hand’ mentioned in the later 15th and early 16th century, evidently a direction post”. The Staffs Past Track website suggests this “The lane from Lichfield to Farewell, known as ‘Cross in Hand Lane’, is thought to be so-called because travellers wanting sanctuary at the Benedictine priory would use that route, carrying a cross in their hand”.
I have found a description of the Cross in Hand Hollow Way in ‘The Olio’ 1829.
“But the chief interest of the yew tree, in my eyes, is the mutual connection between it and some of the most stirring recollections of the past, and the most endearing circumstances of the present. How can I forget those twin Titans,superb in the blackness of their vivid foliage, that towered and waved over the red holloway near Lichfield! It was a little hamlet that, lying midway between the city and the old Benedictine Convent of Fairwell, was called Cross-in-hand, doubtless from the frequent monastic processions between the Nunnery and the Minster, or from some rustic image enshrined by the roadside.
The houses, nested under high banks, scarce revealed themselves by the smokewreathes among their orchards ; and the orchards themselves just raised their coloured raiment of blossom or fruit to a level with the smooth green uplands, which the holloway so deeply bisected. But the two yews, justly entitled Gog and Magog, upheaved their funereal forms and surgy branches into the free sky,— for miles the cynosure of this little caverned village”
I wonder if these two yews still exist. I’ll just add it to my ever growing list of things to go and have a look for!