Norman Cross and the Great North Road
Norman Cross is no major settlement but it has been a well known point of interest along the Great North Road for centuries.
It is now necessary to make a deliberate diversion to find the Norman Cross Memorial which commemorated the Napoleonic prison – and which once stood right by the north road. A few brick buildings remain from the prison camp (one of which now houses an art gallery). The site of the prison takes the form of a field with lumps and bumps – just to the east of the Premier Inn.
Until the A1 was re-sculpted in 1998 Norman Cross marked the junction of the A15 to Lincoln. That junction has now moved north a couple of miles.
About Norman Cross
Known to the Saxons as Northmannescros it lay at the centre of one of the four Hundreds of the old county of Huntingdonshire. The Hundred extended north as far as Wansford and south to Alconbury.
In 1797 it was chosen as the site of the first purpose built prisoner of war camp – or “depot”. The prison was built by the Admiralty to hold prisoners from the Napoleonic wars and housed up to 6,300 prisoners, guarded by 500 soldiers. The prisoners are said to have contributed to the development of the Great North Road being deployed to lower the incline as the road approached Newark from the north. Bone carvings and other artefacts produced by prisoners can be seen in Peterborough Museum.
More than 1,000 prisoners died from typhoid in 1800 and 1801 and 1,770 prisoners died during the life of this “model” prison.
One hundred years after the defeat of Napoleon and the repatriation of the prisoners, those who died at Norman Cross were remembered by the erection of a memorial by the Entente Cordial Society. The large bronze eagle on a stone column stood beside the Great North Road until the eagle was stolen in 1990. The monument was restored with a new eagle (by sculptor John Doubleday) in 2005.
Peterborough Archaeology Website
Chamberlain, Paul. The Napoleonic Prison of Norman Cross, 2018