Council advised by Historic England not to cover Northampton's Queen Eleanor Cross ahead of repair works

Far Cotton residents hope there is a ‘compromise’ that can be reached with the borough council over how the Queen Eleanor Cross is protected until repair works can start.

Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 3:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:07 pm
Northampton's Queen Eleanor Cross

This week the council announced it had gone out to tender for a contractor to carry out repairs to the 13th century cross, of which only three remain in the country.

But more than 1,500 people have already signed an e-petition to the council calling on them to erect scaffolding to protect the cross during the harsh weather conditions and until the repair works begin, which the council has said will start in spring.

The London Road cross marks one of the nightly resting places of the funeral procession of King Edward I’s wife, Queen Eleanor of Castile, between Harby, near Lincoln, and London.

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Last autumn, experts brought in to assess the monument advised that there are iron cramps in some locations. These are thought to be corroding, and causing damage to the masonry.

The issue was hotly debated at full council last night (January 14), where resident Ron Fitzhugh called on councillors to ‘inspire confidence’ in residents that they cared about the cross.

He said: “I think that we are very unlucky to have a council in power who do not have the desire to look after our beautiful Queen Eleanor.“She must be turning in her tomb at Westminster Abbey unable to understand why Northampton Borough Council is being irresponsible in allowing her to disintegrate.

“Every one of you sitting here in this chamber will be remembered by name as one of those councillors who allowed, through procrastination, a national monument to slide into the ground before your very eyes.”

And resident Daniel Soan asked council leader Jonathan Nunn whether a temporary cover would be possible.

But the leader responded that Historic England had advised the council that putting temporary covers over the cross could lead to condensation, which would in turn lead to further problems.

Councillor Nunn replied: “The heritage of Northampton is very important to me. But Historic England have advised us that it can’t be done, and I would be hung if I went against the advice of Historic England.

“I heard there was heated debate at the recent residents’ association, and we will try and arrange a meeting with them and heritage officers to discuss things further.”

Asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting if he was satisfied with the response from the leader, Mr Soan said: “I don’t think we were looking for a response this evening, rather we wanted to make a point that we are concerned about this. We wanted to put a suggestion forward, and perhaps we could meet somewhere in the middle.”

The repair works, funded by the council and matched by Historic England, include the reinstatement of loose stonework, conservation repairs to the fragile 13th century stonework, and carefully selected shelter coatings to some more vulnerable areas. In several limited areas new pieces of stone might be required.

The borough council had faced criticism for delaying the 'urgent' works from autumn last year. But earlier this week, speaking about the contract tender process, Councillor Tim Hadland, cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, said: “We’re looking forward to appointing a contractor for this work, which will start in the spring.

“Our specialists have advised that temperatures from April onwards should be sufficient for lime mortar to cure properly.

“Our approach, agreed to standards set by Historic England, should offer the best chance of ensuring the monument is protected for future generations to enjoy.”