AT THE heart of the village of Clackmannan stands three important historical monuments.

One of these is the market cross, also known as the burgh cross.

In Main Street, the market cross, or mercat cross as these are also known in Scotland, stands at the point where four roads in the centre of the town meet – Main Street, High Street, Port Street and Kirk Wynd.

Thought to have been erected in the 16th century, it was the focal point of the local market or fair that was held annually which could last for more than a week.

The cross was also the place where legal matters were settled and where bonds and deeds were made due to its proximity to the Tollbooth.

It is likely the cross replaced an earlier stone marking the spot. It is known that prisoners were once shackled to the cross with chains while they awaited trial next door.

Although the shaft is original, the stepped base was renewed in 1949. It measures 9 feet 6 inches in height and is octagonal in section, measuring 11 inches in diameter.

The shaft tapers before widening out at the base which may have been caused by the rubbing of the prisoners’ chains.

The head of the column is moulded and on the east side has a shield enclosed by swags and bearing a saltire and chief for Robert Bruce, king of Scots.

A second shield which is carved on the west side was most likely ornately decorated as well, but is now worn away by weathering and nothing remains.

The ornamental ball on the head was removed in 1857, although the reason for this is unknown, but it was replaced in 1897 according to a commemorative plaque placed below the ball.

It reads: "This ball, removed from the town cross forty years ago, has been restored to mark the diamond jubilee of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria."

Originally, the ball is thought to have come from the grounds of Clackmannan Tower.

The plinth on which the cross stands is also not original. The original was replaced during the reconstruction of the town centre in the late 1950s by county architect WH Henry.

The cross was repaired between 2006 and 2007, and a stainless steel railing was put in place to protect it.

The market cross was Category B listed by what is now Historic Environment Scotland on June 9, 1960, and was designated an ancient scheduled monument on March 15, 1950, such is its historical importance.