Geddington Cross: Eleanor cross and conduit house


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Kettering (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 89445 83022

Reasons for Designation

A standing cross is a free standing upright structure, usually of stone, mostly erected during the medieval period (mid 10th to mid 16th centuries AD). Standing crosses served a variety of functions. In churchyards they served as stations for outdoor processions, particularly in the observance of Palm Sunday. Elsewhere, standing crosses were used within settlements as places for preaching, public proclamation and penance, as well as defining rights of sanctuary. Standing crosses were also employed to mark boundaries between parishes, property, or settlements. A few crosses were erected to commemorate battles. Some crosses were linked to particular saints, whose support and protection their presence would have helped to invoke. Crosses in market places may have helped to validate transactions. After the Reformation, some crosses continued in use as foci for municipal or borough ceremonies, for example as places for official proclamations and announcements; some were the scenes of games or recreational activity. Standing crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have numbered in excess of 12,000. However, their survival since the Reformation has been variable, being much affected by local conditions, attitudes and religious sentiment. In particular, many cross-heads were destroyed by iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. Less than 2,000 medieval standing crosses, with or without cross-heads, are now thought to exist. The oldest and most basic form of standing cross is the monolith, a stone shaft often set directly in the ground without a base. The most common form is the stepped cross, in which the shaft is set in a socket stone and raised upon a flight of steps; this type of cross remained current from the 11th to 12th centuries until after the Reformation. Where the cross-head survives it may take a variety of forms, from a lantern-like structure to a crucifix; the more elaborate examples date from the 15th century. Much less common than stepped crosses are spire-shaped crosses, often composed of three or four receding stages with elaborate architectural decoration and/or sculptured figures; the most famous of these include the Eleanor crosses, erected by Edward I at the stopping places of the funeral cortege of his wife, who died in 1290. Also uncommon are the preaching crosses which were built in public places from the 13th century, typically in the cemeteries of religious communities and cathedrals, market places and wide thoroughfares; they include a stepped base, buttresses supporting a vaulted canopy, in turn carrying either a shaft and head or a pinnacled spire. Standing crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval customs, both secular and religious, and to our knowledge of medieval parishes and settlement patterns. All crosses which survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in or near their original location, are considered worthy of protection.

Of the 12 Eleanor crosses erected at the end of the 13th century only three still stand. Geddington Cross is the best preserved of these, and in its architectural and sculptural detail is a rare and well documented example of late 13th century stone carving of the highest quality. It is also unusual in its incorporation of a public water supply within a royal memorial. The durability of the materials used has necessitated minimal restoration work in the modern period, and recent careful conservation of the stonework has resulted in the preservation of sculptural detail and in the identification of the surviving remains of original paint. The monument has been the subject of art-historical research and is thus quite well understood; as a monument in the care of the Secretary of State it also serves an important educational function.


The monument includes Geddington Eleanor Cross, a standing stone cross erected at the end of the 13th century in memory of Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I. Queen Eleanor died on 28 November 1290 at Harby, Nottinghamshire, and her funeral procession passed from Lincoln to Westminster in December. The cross at Geddington marks the resting place of Queen Eleanor's body on the night of 6-7 December 1290. The monument includes the standing cross, Listed Grade I, in the care of Secretary of State, together with its foundation and associated archaeological deposits. It also includes the adjacent conduit house, built in 1769 and restored in 1868. The steps of the cross were rebuilt in the 19th century.

The monument is situated over a conduit at the junction of three roads in the centre of the village of Geddington. The cross, which stands on sloping ground, is spire-shaped and includes a stepped base, plinth and spire. There are seven steps of hexagonal plan joined together by mortar and recessed metal clamps. The lowest step measures about 6m across and stands up to 0.5m above the sloping ground surface; the lower part of the step is partly faced with limestone blocks and blue bricks. On the top step rests the plinth, hexagonal in plan at the base and chamfered above to a top of triangular plan. The plinth was altered in the 19th century when the original eight steps were replaced by the present seven; the blue bricks beneath the lowest step were added during later repairs.

The spire of the cross takes the form of a tall pinnacle of three receding stages. It is constructed of local limestone, principally Weldon stone with string courses and weatherings of Stanion stone. The lowest stage is triangular in plan with undulating sides of wave-moulding, patterned with rosette diaperwork in low relief. It is divided into two parts by a string course; in the upper part are six shields, two on each face, carved with the arms of Castile, Leon, Ponthieu and England. The upper part terminates in a low battlement. There are vertical engaged shafts at the angles and at the centre of each face, also decorated with diaperwork, which carry up to support the gables of the second stage. The second stage is also triangular in plan, although shorter than the first, and is composed of three open niches set at the angles of the lower stage. In each niche, facing the angle shaft, is a statue of Queen Eleanor, complete in each case apart from the right arm and sceptre. Sheltering the figures are a series of gabled canopies, two on each side of the cross, ornamented with crockets and foliate decoration. The third stage of the spire is hexagonal in plan and is shorter and narrower than the second; it is composed of six tapering pinnacles surmounted by crocketed gables with foliate ornament. Above the spire formerly stood the terminal of the cross, now missing. The full surviving height of the cross is nearly 12.8m.

On the south west side of the cross, immediately abutting the lowest step, is a small rectangular stone building roofed with a large slab. It is partly built into the ground and is reached on the south west side by two short flights of three steps which lead to a small paved recess; on this side of the building are two round-arched openings, now closed with wooden doors. This building is a conduit house in which water was collected in cisterns. On the south west side of the paved recess is a wall containing a small iron grill through which the water may be seen; the top of the wall is capped with modern blue bricks and wooden posts. On a shield between the archways of the building is an inscription recording its construction in 1769 and restoration in 1868.

The modern road surface and the floodlights around the cross are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Markham, C, The History and Antiquities of Geddington, Northamptonshire, (1899)
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, (1973), 225
Vallance, A, Old Crosses and Lychgates, (1920), fig.125
Vallance, A, Old Crosses and Lychgates, (1920), 97-98
Coldstream, N, 'Eleanor of Castile 1290-1990 [Paul Watkins Medieval Studies]' in The Commissioning and Design of the Eleanor Crosses, , Vol. 6, (1991), 56-57
Evans, J, 'Archaeological Journal' in Geddington Cross, , Vol. 109, (1952), 200
Gough, R G, 'Vetusta Monumenta' in Vetusta Monumenta, , Vol. iii, (1796), 11-12
Schnebbelie, J C, 'Vetusta Monumenta' in The Cross Erected In Memory of Queen Eleanor at Geddington, , Vol. iii, (1791), pl. XV
Smith, N, 'Eleanor of Castile 1290-1990 [Paul Watkins Medieval Studies]' in A Note on the Conservation of the Geddington Cross, , Vol. 6, (1991), 93-95
Listed Building description 8/5, Department of the Environment, Queen Eleanor Cross,
ms ?c.1900 [cf. Vallance 1920 viii], Hope, John [?], The Eleanor Crosses,
ref. 1676/0/3,
Stocker, David, (1994)
typescript, Queen Eleanor Cross, Geddington, Northants.,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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