Eleanor Cross, Waltham Cross
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1017471
Date first listed: 30-Jun-1939
Date of most recent amendment: 16-Jan-1998
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Broxbourne (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TL 36073 00394
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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.
There are believed to have been 12 crosses erected to commemorate the passing of Eleanor of Castile's cortege, of which only three, Waltham Cross, Northampton and Geddington, now remain. In addition to their historical significance, these remaining crosses mark an important stage in the development of English architecture when the Early English style evolved into the more complex designs of the Decorated period. The Waltham Cross survives particularly well, standing in its original position and retaining much of its original fabric and decoration. The modern repairs illustrate the continued value of the cross as a public monument and feature of the town.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a spire-shaped cross situated on the east side of
Waltham Cross High Street near its junction with Eleanor Cross Road. It was
erected in this location in 1291 in order to commemorate one of the resting
places for the funeral cortege of Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, as her
body was brought from Harby in Leicestershire (where she died) for burial in
The cross, which is Listed Grade I, was constructed by the masons Nicholas
Dyminge de Reyne and Roger Crundale using limestone from Caen in Normandy. It
includes three stages, hexagonal in section, surmounted by a pinnacle and
cross head. The lowest stage stands on a base of three steps (added in the
late 19th century) and each face is decorated with shields contained in blank
two light arches with crocketed gables and diapered spandrels. The upper edge
of this entablature is finished by a leaf cornice and pierced quatrefoil
parapet. The second stage has six niches, each crowned by canopies with
crocketed gables, pinnacles and leaf finials, and alternately framed or
obscured by ornate buttresses. The open niches contain draped statues of Queen
Eleanor - modern replicas of the original figures (attributed to Alexander of
Abingdon) which were removed for safekeeping in 1950, and are now housed in
the Victoria and Albert Museum. The third stage has single, blank, traceried
arches on each face, also finished with gables and finials. The plain cross
head is 19th century in date, as are the spiked iron railings with flower
finials on the angle posts which surround the base.
The second and third stages were partly rebuilt in 1832-3 by W B Clarke, using
softer Bath stone which quickly decayed. Further restoration work, using
harder Ketton stone, took place under the direction of C E Ponting between
1885 and 1892, during which time the adjoining Falcon Hotel was resited
allowing the cross to stand once more in isolation. Some minor work repairs
were made in 1950-53, but the exceptional condition of the cross at present
results from detailed restoration work in 1989 during the construction of the
pedestrianised area in which it now stands. Following careful cleaning and
consolidation of the cross itself, the area around the base was partly
excavated to reveal foundations of flint and rubble within an ashlar facing.
This extends some 1.5m beyond the present plinth and may once have supported
further steps. The area of the foundations is included in the scheduling
together with the Victorian railings and steps, although the modern pavement
is excluded. The wire mesh preventing pigeons from roosting in the niches is
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.
Legacy System number: 29385
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Colvin, H M, The History of the King's Works, (1963), 479-85
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, (2002), 256-8
Williamson, P, Northern Gothic Sculpture 1200-1450, (1988), 63-65
'Historic Buildings Review' in Project 3.11 Restoration of the Eleanor Cross, Waltham Cross, (1990), 148-150
Archive material in SMR files, PRN 60 Waltham Cross, (1996)
Brochure produced by Herts C C & EH, Daniells, M, The Restoration of the Eleanor Cross, Waltham Cross, (1990)
Cheshunt 5/15, DoE, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, Broxbourne,
Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogue, The Age of Chivalry, (1987)
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