Specialists recommend spring start for Eleanor Cross work

Published: Friday, 19 October 2018

Specialist advisors have recommended a spring start for repair and conservation work to Northampton’s Eleanor Cross.

During investigations carried out in the past few months, the expert team working on the project discovered that the primary issue of masonry movement has been caused by degraded iron cramps which are more than a century old.

These are essentially iron fittings holding the various parts of the monument together. They were last weatherproofed in the 1980s but have since begun to decay.

In order to properly preserve the structure, it is likely that at least some of these will need to be replaced with stainless steel equivalents. All work will be carried out in line with Historic England's requirements.

And the specialists brought in to assess the monument and commission the work have advised that, for the most durable results, all of the work should be carried out between April and September, when lime mortar has the best chance to cure properly.

As work is set to start within months, the team’s structural engineer - a very experienced conservation specialist - has confirmed that no intermediate work is required over the winter period.

Cllr Tim Hadland, Northampton Borough Council’s Cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, said: “Our primary concern is to commission a programme of repairs that will conserve and protect the monument for future generations.

“We have said all along that this work must be carried out to standards outlined by Historic England, and we absolutely have to get it right.

“We know there is an appetite in some quarters for this work to be carried out more quickly, but we are following a considered and informed approach and will listen to the advice of our expert team.

“Undertaking the work during the winter months could result in failure of the repairs and the need to undertake the works again in a short space of time.”

In May this year, Historic England agreed that the cross would be added to its Buildings at Risk register - to be published in November - which enabled the council to apply for a grant toward the work. This was awarded later the same month.

Work then started to recruit a lead professional advisor who then assembled the required team of specialists to build on the work done by Cliveden Conservation last autumn.

Since then, detailed reports have been compiled which consider the structural issues around the iron cramps and the repair methodology to be adopted.

The Cross, situated at the southern end of London Road close to Delapré Wood, was commissioned by Edward I between 1291 and 1294. Only three of twelve original monuments remain.

Each marks one of the nightly resting places of the King’s wife, Queen Eleanor of Castile’s, funeral procession between Harby, near Lincoln, to London.