Century-old degraded iron clamps cause of Eleanor Cross damage as experts say repairs to take place in spring

Pictures in May show how cracks had appeared in the stonework of the Eleanor Cross, in London Road
Pictures in May show how cracks had appeared in the stonework of the Eleanor Cross, in London Road

Repair work on Northampton's Eleanor Cross will start in spring after experts found century-old degraded iron clamps had caused parts of the monument to fall apart.

Repair work on Northampton's Eleanor Cross will start in spring after experts found century-old degraded iron clamps had caused parts of the monument to fall apart.

The specialist advisors noted the iron fittings that hold various bits of the stone structure together were more than 100 years old, were last weatherproofed in the 1980s and were decaying.

Stainless steel replacements will be fitted with the experts recommending the work should be carried out between April and September, when lime mortar has the best chance to cure properly.

Councillor 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.”

As work is set to start within months, the team’s structural engineer confirmed that no intermediate work is required over the winter period.

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, which 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.