Eleanor Cross, Waltham Cross


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


Ordnance survey map of Eleanor Cross, Waltham Cross
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Broxbourne (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 36073 00394

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.


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 Westminster Abbey. 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 also excluded.

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
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

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