After two years, work begins to protect Northampton's Eleanor Cross from the elements

Conservationists have been calling on the borough council to repair the cross for almost three years.
Conservationists have been calling on the borough council to repair the cross for almost three years.

Work has finally begun to secure a crumbling 13th-Century Northampton monument and preserve it for the future.

Scaffolding and corrugated fencing has been built around the Eleanor Cross in London Road as the first steps in conservation work by the borough council.

The first steps to repair Northampton's Eleanor Cross began today.

The first steps to repair Northampton's Eleanor Cross began today.

It comes after the council secured a grant from Historic England to cover half of the repair costs, with the rest being funded by "council resources", according to councillor Tim Hadland.

Architects Skillington Workshop have been commissioned to carry out the conservation work and are expected to finished in August.

The first steps will be to use X-rays and radar technology to assess the extent of the work needed.

Architect Henry Sanders AABC, who will oversee the project, said: "Much like in surgery, you don't know what approach will be best until your patient is under the knife.

Conservation team Skillington Workshop will oversee the repair work.

Conservation team Skillington Workshop will oversee the repair work.

"You have to approach an historic building such as this with an open mind. What approach you take will very likely change as you inspect the building."

Skillington plan to restore the cross using limestone mortar and will make no visible changes to the stonework - which will mean no replacement for the long-lost spire of the monument, which has been missing for centuries.

Many conservationists in the town feared the cross would not survive another winter, and in the past have shared photos of small pieces of the stonework they found on the floor where it crumbled off.

Councillor James Hill, cabinet member for planning, said: "We said we would start work as soon as possible and that’s precisely what we’re doing.

“The exciting project we are set to embark upon will see the sensitive and cautious repair of this beautiful and important monument, preserving it for future generations.”

The Eleanor Cross was one of 12 such monumemnts built in the 13th-Century to mark one of the resting places of the wife of Edward I, Queen Eleanor of Castile, as her body was transported to London. It is one of only three surviving such crosses.

Northampton's cross was last weatherproofed in 1980 and caused controversy in 2016 when it seemed like neither the borough council nor the county council were responsible for its maintenance. The borough council promised to take action for the cross in 2017.