'Neglected' landmark of Northampton heritage causes confusion between councils as no-one knows who owns it

The Eleanor Cross monument in Hardingstone has 'fallen into disrepair', say local history groups.
The Eleanor Cross monument in Hardingstone has 'fallen into disrepair', say local history groups.
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A Northampton monument is in danger of 'falling to pieces' if action is not taken by a local authority now, a historian has said.

But they say their appeals to save the Hardingstone Eleanor Cross, in London Road, Northampton, have been 'ignored' as no one will claim responsibility for its upkeep.

Dr Marie Dickie, left, with other Friends of Northampton Castle.

Dr Marie Dickie, left, with other Friends of Northampton Castle.

"The Eleanor Cross could be one cold snap away from falling apart and something needs to be done now," says Mike Ingham, chair of the Northamptonshire Battlefield Trust.

"The borough council says it's the county council and the county council say it's the borough council. They are playing ping pong with the issue."

A Northampton Borough Council spokesman said: “We are aware of the many references to the cross on our own website and sadly, while this seems contradictory, we still believe this is not proof of our ownership of the cross."

A Northamptonshire County Council spokeswoman said: "Our records clearly show that we have not had responsibility for the cross since 1965 when it was transferred to the borough council.”

The Eleanor Cross is one of three remaining monuments in the country built in honour of Queen Eleanor of Castile.

Twelve were commissioned by King Edward I in 1291, but nine of the original crosses are no longer standing.

Dr Marie Dickie OBE, chair of the Friends of Northampton Castle group, said: "The cross is a crucial piece of Northampton's heritage and it has been left to fall into disrepair.

"The grass is unkempt, the area is untidy and weeds and ivy are growing into the cracks in the stone. This can cause severe damage over time.

"It has reached a crisis point. The monument is just outside Delapre Abbey. If the borough council is going to spend so much time and money renovating the abbey, why can't they also look after the cross?

"They should both act responsibly."Plans to renovate the Hardingstone Eleanor Cross were mentioned in a Northampton Borough Council cabinet meeting in July 2010 when they discussed the £6.3million Delapre Abbey restoration project.

A spokesman for Northampton Borough Council said: "We have carried out extensive maintenance on the cross in the past and we intend now to carry out some further work to tidy up what is undoubtedly a fantastic monument of national importance, which will have even greater profile in the future after Delapre Abbey opens.

"We have contacted Historic England today (April 26) to find out what is required, and we will try to clarify who owns the Eleanor Cross so that it is cherished in the future."

A spokeswoman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “In order to help resolve this, we will of course work with the borough council to clarify responsibility for such an important heritage landmark in the town."

Another of the three remaining crosses is in Geddington, Northamptonshire, and is protected by Heritage England.