Cross (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – TQ 3077 8093
Also Known as
- Stone Cross of the Strand
Archaeology & History
First mentioned in Latin manuscripts from 1274 CE, the best description of this long lost monument, curiously, appears to be in Gover’s Place Names tome. In a slightly edited format he told us the following:
“There was a stone cross “without the bar of the New Temple” traditionally supposed to have been erected by William Rufus “in devotion to the Holy Cross and for the health of the souls of himself and his mother, Queen Maud… It was in the Strand, possibly on the site of the present church of St. Mary. It is referred to as crucem lap’ in 1274; la Crois de Piere in 1293; …Stonecrouch in 1337; crucem fractum in 1342…”
In subsequent notes Gover et al (1942) tell of a man they found in historical records to be Thomas le Barber, “described alternatively as being Thomas le Barber atte Stonecourche” in the Calendar of Rolls records of 1337, and again in the 1339 accounts.
Of the cross itself, information is minimal and scattered. It was destroyed several centuries ago but is mentioned in a number of old books on the history of the city. The historian Thomas Allen (1829), for example, told that
“opposite to Chester Inn stood an ancient cross. On this cross in the year 1294, the judges sat to administer justice, without the City.”
It was also a site where legal pleas for the county of Middlesex were to be held, at “the Stone Cross of lad Straund” as it was then known. Due to the early administrative function delivered from this cross, it strongly implies the place to have been a moot site prior to the erection of the cross, probably dating from the period in which tribal elders met here.
A Mr Newton tells in his London in the Olden Time that the top of the cross was damaged and knocked off by the crazy christians around the time of the Reformation and that for many years stood headless. When Vallance (1920) came to describe it, he told merely that,
“the Strand Cross, near Covent Garden. This cross was hexagonal on plan, and comprised four stages. It was standing in 1547, but was ultimately removed, its site being occupied by the Maypole, which was spoken of in 1700 as new.”
The Strand Cross would have been on the ancient ley (not one of those ‘energy lines’ invented by New Age fantasists) described first of all by Alfred Watkins (1925)—running from St. Martins-in-the-Field to St. Dunstan’s in Fleet Street—but he seems to have been unaware that the monolith ever existed. The alignment was subsequently described in more detail in Devereux & Thomson’s (1979) work on the same subject, but its existence seems to have evaded them too! Chris Street (2010) did include it in his much more detailed walk down the same ley. A maypole was also known to exist close to the site of the cross; with one account showing that the two monuments existed at the same time in 1543.
As the site seemed to have been an early moot spot, the Strand Cross may have been an omphalos in early popular culture (before the christians of course), or at the very least, a site of popular animistic tradition.
- Allen, Thomas, The History and Antiquities of London – volume 4, Cowie & Strange: London 1829.
- Anon., Rotuli Hundredorum – 2 volumes, G. Eyre and A. Strahan: London 1812.
- Aungier, George James, Croniques de London, Camden Society: London 1854.
- Devereux, Paul & Thomson, Ian, The Ley Hunter’s Companion, Thames & Hudson: London 1979.
- Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, Allen & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Middlesex, Cambridge University Press 1942.
- Newton, William, London in the Olden Time, Bell & Daldy: London 1855.
- Stevenson, W.H. (ed.), Calendar of the Close Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, HMSO: London 1900.
- Street, Christopher E., London’s Ley Lines, Earthstars: London 2010.
- Vallance, Aymer, Old Crosses and Lychgates, Batsford: London 1920.
- Watkins, Alfred, The Old Straight Track, Methuen: London 1925.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian