Location of The Eleanor Crosses
Each memorial cross was sited in a prominent position on the funeral journey, near Eleanor’s resting place for that night of the procession. The choice was usually for a significant crossroads, junction or high street where Eleanor’s body had directly passed by, sometimes in the town or village, sometimes outside.
Northampton – Hardingstone (surviving)
London – Cheapside
London – Charing
All 12 memorial crosses and the three tombs were finished within 4 years of Queen Eleanor’s death.
There was a long history of crosses commemorating notable religious figures, events or boundaries dating back to the earliest days of Christianity. Many of the earlier crosses were very modest; the Eleanor Crosses rather less so – building on the precedent of the memorials created in the 1270s for King Louis IX of France, her uncle, who had died on the crusade in which Edward and Eleanor had participated.
The sections below explore in more detail a few of the Eleanor Crosses in places featured on the Great North Road website.
The cross at Lincoln was placed outside the walls at the gates of St Katherine’s Priory at Swine Green at the foot of Cross-o-cliff Hill. This was close to the junction of Fosse Way and Ernie Street. The cross was built by mason Richard of Stow. Records show that it was repaired by the city authorities in 1624, though it was destroyed during the Civil War about 20 years later. A fragment of a statue of Eleanor was rescued from use as a footbridge in the 19th century and can now be seen in the grounds of Lincoln Castle.
Remnant of the Lincoln Cross (Photo Credit – seeingthepast.com)
Grantham Cross stood on what is now St Peter’s Hill on the High Street. It was destroyed during the Civil War and no traces remain.
For 350 years The Queen’s Cross was a prominent landmark close to the Great North Road just north of Stamford. Until destroyed by Cromwellian forces it stood to the southwest of the road on higher ground then known then as Anemone Hill between Stamford and Great Casterton. The date of its demise suggests that the image above involved artistic licence.
Captain Richard Symonds of the Royalist army visited Stamford on his way from Newark to Huntingdon on 22 August 1645. He wrote:
“In the hill before ye into the towne stands a lofty large cross, built by Edward I in memory of Eleanor whose corps rested there coming from the north. Upon the top of this cross these three shields shields are often carved: England; three bends sinister; a bordure (Ponthieu); Quarterly Castile and Leon”
A year later in The Survey and Antiquitie of the Towne of Stamford, Richard Butcher writes:
Not farre from hence upon the Northe side of the Town unto York highway and about twelvescore from the Town gate, which is called Clement-gate, stands an ancient Crosse of free stone of a very curious fabrick, having many ancient scutchions of Armes insculped in the stone, about it; as the Armes of Castile and Leon, quartered, being the paternall coat of the King of Spain, and divers other Hatchments belonging to that Crown, which envious time hath so defaced, that only the ruins appeare to my eye, and therefore not to be described by my pen. This Crosse is called the Queens Crosse, and was erected in this place by King Edward the first about Anno Dom. 1293.
The base of the Stamford cross was excavated by local antiquarian, William Stukeley, vicar of All Saints in 1745. He had long suspected that a tumulus on the Casterton Road marked the base of the cross, and when the turnpike surveyor began digging in the area for road stone, he was able to excavate the foundations. His reports describe the base as having 6 or 8 sides.
Stukeley’s sketch suggests a substantial pyramidal section adorned with roses (Edward’s personal emblem) was seen by him before being removed to his garden. A marble rose was rediscovered in the 1990s and prompted the 2009 homage to the cross by Wolfgang Buttress. It stands in Sheepmarket in Stamford.
The cross built a mile west of Eleanor’s overnight resting place at Waltham Abbey would later give the area around it its name. The much restored and modified monument now stands incongruously in the centre of Waltham Cross.
[Image Credit – Hertfordshire CCTV Partnership]
These sketches of the figures on the Eleanor Cross at Waltham show why they are often considered to be the finest; the statues visible today are replicas, the originals were removed to the Victoria & Albert Museum
As early as 1721 the Society of Antiquaries had expressed concern at the damage being caused to the monument by rapidly increasing road traffic. Antiquarian and future Society president, William Stukeley, sketched the cross, and oak bollards were set in the road to prevent vehicles driving too close.
The cross was the work of masons Roger of Crundale and Nicholas Dymenge. It was originally a five-stage cross, hexagonal in plan.
Procession of Edward VI to his coronation in 1547, James Basire (18th century)
The West Cheap or Cheapside cross was prominently located outside St Peter’s, opposite the entrance to Wood Street. It cost 3 times as much as the less lavish Lincoln cross; it featured regularly in ceremonial occasions, including the celebration of Henry V’s victory at Agincourt in 1415. In fact the cross was re-gilded for the occasion. Maintenance and reconstruction continued over the centuries.
A 1638 image by La Serre depicting the Procession of Mary de Medici
During the Civil War the Cheapside Cross became the focus of fierce dispute. The Parliamentarians saw it as a representation of all things “Papistry” and the monarchy. In 1643 a warrant was issued by Parliament for the demolition of the cross. On 2nd May Sir Robert Harlow with a troop of horse and two companies of foot toppled the idolatrous Cheapside cross – seemingly watched by a large and jubilant crowd.
The demolition of the Cheapside Cross, Besant, 1903
Fragments of the Cheapside Cross showing the arms of England and Castille are held by the Museum of London.
London – Charing Cross
For centuries, this Eleanor Cross became the reference point for measing distances to London. Even today, Google Maps locate London just a few metres away.
The original Charing Cross suffered the same fate as that at Cheapside, by order of the anti-monarchist Parliament. It was replaced in 1675 fifteen years after the monarchy was restored, by an equestrian statue of King Charles I.
King Charles I in the shadow of Nelson’s Column facing toward the Houses of Parliament. The oldest bronze statue in London. [Image Credit – Tracy Jenkins, Art UK]
In the 19th century a grand reproduction was carved by Thomas Earp: it was designed by Edward Middleton Barry who was also the architect of the Charing Cross hotel in front of which it stands.
The replica “Charing Cross” in front of Charing Cross station
Construction of the original cross is remembered by the murals along the platform of the Northern Line