Nottingham crosses

NOTTINGHAM.— The subject of the old crosses of the county town is too considerable to be dealt with here in other than the briefest manner.

The first to appear on record is one that had even then become damaged, for it is mentioned only as "The Headless Cross," otherwise "The Cross without a Head," from 1310 to 1395, after which it is no more heard of. It stood on the original Swine Green (now built over), between Carlton Street and Parliament Street, and seems to have marked a mediaeval  cattle-market.

The second to come under notice is "The Milk Cross," otherwise "The Cross where they sell Milk," which probably stood in the Saturday or great Market, and is mentioned from 1315 to 1378.

Possibly the latter was succeeded, on the same site, by the Cheese Cross, mentioned only from 1543 to 1548, and which appears to have been a covered cross, having a chamber over, and to have stood in the country-produce section of the Saturday Market.

Its successor (and perhaps even the same fabric under another name), appears to have been the Butter Cross, first mentioned in 1571, and which stood a few yards in front of unanimously voted that the Butter Cross should be removed, although local writers variously date the removal from 1700 to 1724. It is described as a covered cross, with six supporting columns, and standing four steps high.

The Malt Cross, the most prominent in Nottingham history, occupied a comparatively central position, between the ends of St. James Street and Market Street, and is first mentioned in 1495. In 1641 it is described as standing ten steps high, and as a place where all proclamations were published. The most historic of many events in its history is the part it played in the Revolution of 1688. As a pillar on a pile of steps, it appears to have been pulled down about 1714, but was rebuilt as a covered cross, supported by six columns, elevated on four steps, and surmounted by six sundials and a vane. It figures prominently in connection with the efforts of early dissenting preachers, and with old-time public whippings. Being deemed to have survived its period of utility, the materials of the cross were sold by auction in 1804. The glazed doors of the neighbouring Malt Cross Inn, St. James Street, are adorned with representations of the structure.

The Hen Cross, likewise associated with the Saturday Market, stood on the eastern limit of the latter, at the intersection of four streets (where High Street joins Bridlesmith Gate), and is first mentioned in 1416. It early gave rise to a street name, for in the subsidy of 1523 thirteen persons were assessed under the heading of "Hencrosse," in 1552 first occurs "Hencrosse Row," and in 1582 again occur thirteen names (parishioners of St. Mary's) under "Henne Crosse." The corporation accounts of 1614 seem to indicate that the erection was rebuilt in that year. In 1641 it is described as standing seven steps high. Stretton describes the old Hen Cross as Gothic, and as having a clustered column and embattled cap, adding that it was taken down and rebuilt in 1745. This date must be too late, for a view of the Exchange published in 1744 incidentally embraces a miniature of the Hen Cross, as an unusually tall cylindrical column on a base of four hexagonal steps and a square plinth, and surmounted by a plain cap and ball. A traveller of 1769 describes this as "a very lofty column," and a writer of 1776 styles it "a very noble column"; but a third, in 1795, deemed it "of no great use as a market-cross." This last presumably voiced the contemporary sentiment, for in 1800 or 1801 the Hen Cross, having become a place where rubbish accumulated, and "a public nuisance," was taken down. One account says its materials went towards the repair of the Trent Bridge, while another says they were absorbed in the contemporary building operations at New Sneinton.

The Weekday Cross, which stood in the area still known by the same name, marked the ancient daily market of the borough. It is said that in a crown rental of 1474-5 mention is made of "a tenement in the tenure of John Aired, tailor, near the Cross in the Daily Market," this being the earliest notice hitherto cited. Certain payments entered in the corporation accounts for 1529, in relation to "the Markyt Crosse," followed by an item for wine" drunk at the Cross on Corpus Christi Day," have been surmised to refer to the occasion of its erection, or re-erection. Be this as it may, there seems to be in the city archives no excant reference by name to the Weekday Cross earlier than 1543. A second reference, in 1548, is to the " Wekeday Market Crosse." Soon afterwards the term begins to be variantly used in reference to the locality, in the present-day sense, there being numerous allusion to property at, people living at, the bull-ring, the stocks, and the well at Weekday Cross. There were orders about cleaning this and others of the town crosses, and in 1626 it was represented to need painting and mending. This was evidently the "Market Cross in Nottingham" at which banns of marriage were published during the Protectorate, as recorded in the parish-registers of Kinoulton, Oxton, Trowel, Upper Broughton, etc. In 1682 a tumultuous scene was enacted here, having relation to the town charters. It is stated that the cross was rebuilt in the 18th century, and that the cap of the old cross was buried in the foundation of the new one. There exists a drawing of it in 1741, by Thomas Sandby,  and Deering describes it as a column on an octagonal base of four steps. The limited character of the space led to the Weekday Market being transferred to the Great Market Place in 1800. A subsequent suggestion to enlarge the area by removing buildings, and to bring the market back again, was not acted upon, and the materials of the Weekday Cross were sold by auction in 1804.

The High Cross was not a market-cross, but stood far outside the ancient town, at the northern apex of the premises of St. Leonard's Leper Hospital, which were bounded by the lines of Woodborough Road, Mansfield Road, and Huntingdon Street. As the hospital itself appears to have come to an end in the first half of the 14th century, it may be assumed the High Cross was built at least as early as that period. It was perhaps indicated by a bare allusion in 1382 to "the Spetil Cross," although it has to be remembered that there was a second Nottingham hospital, dedicated to St. John. Like other local crosses the High Cross gave its name to a locality, which retained it long after all traces of the erection had disappeared, one consequence of which is that it is generally impossible to say whether the original or only the reflection is referred to, and there is no evidence as to when the former disappeared. The first mention of ''Hye Crose in the felde'' transpires in 1574, when a plague-stricken woman was there isolated, as had been the lepers in earlier times. In 1579 and 1587 references occur to the road leading to the "Hey Cross," and in 1604 "Highe Crosse" was one of the town approaches where watchmen were stationed, to keep out possibly infected persons. In 1612 the highways towards the "Highe Crosse" were ordered to be surveyed in anticipation of a royal visit, and in 1619 a payment was made for mending the hollow ways at Highe Crosse. In 1687 and 1689, several persons got into trouble in connection with rubbish-heaps at the same place. As late as 1706, an inn on the site of the present Milton's Head, Milton Street, is described as "a house leading to the High Cross." Charles Wesley records that he preached at Nottingham High Cross in 1744, but it is difficult to say whether he alluded to this or to one of the market crosses, where he preached on other occasions. Stretton, writing in 1778, mentions that the cross was situate at the north end of the gardens beyond Fox Lane (Woodborough Road); adding that some leys of land to the east of this locality then retained the name of "High Cross Leys." The latter name occurs similarly on an undated map of the town lands not earlier than 1842. Furthermore, on a later map of the town lands, 1848, the northern half or the leper-hospital site is styled "High Hill Cross." It was then covered by gardens, but shortly afterwards the existing "Welbeck Terrace'' must have been built thereon.

Chesterfield Cross (which clearly derived its name from the contemporary local Chesterfield family, by whom it may have been erected), like the foregoing, doubtless had a religious origin, at a relatively early date. It stood in Greyfriar Gate, at the bifurcation of Chesterfield Street and Rosemary Lane, and its purpose was perhaps that of indicating to the traveller from the south the branching of the ways leading to St. Nicholas' Church. It is first mentioned in 1395, as "Castirffeld-croce," and on half-a-dozen subsequent occasions, from 1402 to 1577. As however all the latter references are associated with gardens, etc., at, next, or near the Cross, it is possible that, as in other instances, this became more or less of a topographical term, liable to be used independently of the erection itself, and is not to be implicitly taken as testimony of the existence of the latter. Chesterfield Cross is not figured on the town map of 1610. Certain street improvements in December, 1911, revealed, on the Greyfriar Gate frontage of the Almshouses premises, a section of the sandstone Friary wall, as well as a rubbly mass of masonry opposite the angle of Chesterfield Street and Rosemary Lane, that some thought might be the foundations of Chesterfield Cross.

The Cross of the Grey Friars, which presumably stood before the entrance gate, cannot have been far removed from the foregoing, and it has in fact been suggested that they may have been identical. "A messuage with a curtilage in Nottingham, by the cross of the Friars Minor there," is mentioned as early as 1358-9. "The Marsh opposite the Cross of the Friars Minor " is also mentioned in 1365, but the structure does not occur again until after the dissolution, on the occasion of its removal. In the corporation accounts for 1571-3 are entered payments for taking up the foundations of the Cross in the Broad Marsh, and for taking up stone in the Broad Marsh end, about the Cross.

A second cross outside the town, called "Our Lady Cross," stood in the neighbourhood of St. Ann's Well, and probably marked land belonging to the church or to a chantry of St. Mary. It is mentioned three times between 1548 and 1588.

The corporate accounts for 1576 include payments made for removing to the town the "olde Fraunces Crose," and for making a new one. This was evidently a boundary cross, somewhere on the confines of the borough, marking the limits of the town franchise.

The only other Nottingham boundary, or land-marking crosses, occur in 1460, in the course of a grant of land upon "Sandclyf " (neighbourhood of the upper end of Wollaton Street), described as situate "between the crosses." It was presumably one of these that attained record in a roll of 1332-3 (printed in the "Wollaton Manuscripts"), where one man is alleged to have beaten another to death with a staff, ' outside the Chapelbarre of Nottingham, on the hill, near the Cross."

This exhausts the list of known ancient crosses of the county-town, with the possible exception of one other opposite the bottom of Barker Gate, as plotted on the map of 1610, but not otherwise alluded to. However, as one of the main entrances of the town, and as marking the approach to St. Mary's Church, the spot was not an unlikely one for such an erection. Corbet, who visited Nottingham about 1620, and who left the town by this route for Newark refers to:—

Crosses not yet demolished, and Our Lady, With her arms on, embracing her whole baby.

The head of the mediaeval cross here alluded to as bearing the Virgin and Child uninjured, wherever it may have then stood in Nottingham, appears to have found a friend during the Civil War demolitions, and to have been carefully hidden where it was discovered in 1910, and presented to the Castle Museum, being the sole relic of the old town crosses now known to survive.

I am told a "Butcher Cross" in Nottingham is mentioned early in the 18th century. Unless another name for the Hen Cross, it was perhaps associated with the Butchers' Close.

A comparatively modern cross, known as the Monday Cross, was erected in St. Peter's Square about 1725, consisting of a roof on four pillars. The intention was to establish a Monday market, but it is recorded that the project did not meet with success, so the cross was walled in, and utilised as a shed for the town fire-engine. In 1787 the Monday Cross was taken down, and in its place was erected a suitably inscribed massive octagonal column, some twenty feet in height, supporting four lamps, surmounted by a vase, and commonly known as "The Obelisk." This latter, in turn, was taken down in 1836.

The Walter Memorial Fountain, erected in 1866, has been described as "a large and handsome modern cross, in the style of the 14th century." The Egyptian and the South African war memorials, respectively situate in the Castle Grounds and King Street, may likewise be said to partake of the character of memorial-crosses. The cross and motto surmounting a drinking-fountain in the Arboretumand dated 1859, recall "Marmion."