Bristol High Cross
Bristol High Cross was a monumental market cross erected in 1373 in the centre of Bristol. It was built in Decorated Gothic style on the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon cross, to commemorate the granting of a charter by Edward III to make Bristol a county, separate from Somerset and Gloucestershire. It was moved to the Stourhead estate in 1780
The cross stood in the centre of the town, at the crossroads of its four main streets (piers with cusped ogee arches. The next two tiers contained alcoves with statues of English monarchs. The top tier was a pinnacle with the actual cross as a finial. The material was oolitic limestone but, as this was susceptible to frost damage, this was subsequently painted in colours of blue, gold, red and vermilion. The vermilion was the predominant colour of the statues, being used for their dresses, and aged well.). After it was enlarged in 1663, it was in four tiers. The base was four octagonal
The base of the cross displayed statues of monarchs in alcoves. In 1663, the cross was rebuilt to add a third tier for four more statues and the total complement of eight was then:
The cross's central location made it the natural place for special events. In 1399, supporters of Richard II were beheaded there by order of Henry Bolinbroke, after a short siege of Bristol. These included Richard's Lord High Treasurer, William le Scrope, Sir John Bussy and Sir Henry Green. The following year, Thomas le Despenser, 1st Earl of Gloucester, was beheaded there for his part in the Epiphany Rising against Bolinbroke who was now King Henry IV.
In 1487, it was the scene of ceremonies to greet Henry VII when he visited Bristol. In 1542, Bristol was proclaimed a bishopric at the cross. In 1554, Queen Mary and King Philip were there proclaimed joint sovereigns over England. In 1603, James I was proclaimed King of England by recorder George Snigge and the city dignitaries standing at the cross in their finery.
As Bristol prospered, the cross became an obstruction to traffic. In 1733 a nearby silversmith complained that the cross threatened his life and property whenever there was a high wind and so persuaded the magistrates to have the cross taken down. The parts were stored in the guildhall until Alderman Price and other citizens arranged for it to be erected again on College Green by the cathedral. It was there admired as a quaint antiquity but it only took thirty years for it once again to be thought an obstruction. This time, the complaints came from the visitors who had come to the spa of Hotwells. They were wont to promenade on the green in line abreast and the cross impeded the great numbers so inclined — lines of eight or more. A fund was collected to improve the green as a promenade but this was exhausted in raising the green and the pieces of the cross lay disassembled by the cathedral for some years. In 1780, Dean Barton then gave it to Henry "the Magnificent" Hoare to adorn his grand estate of Stourhead in Wiltshire. It remains there now in the care of the National Trust.
The Victorian citizens of Bristol sought to regain their cross but the original was now too fragile to be moved again. They commissioned architect John Norton to build a replica which would again stand upon College Green. Norton inspected the original closely to copy its design and then engaged John Thomas, the celebrated mason and stone carver who had recently worked upon the new Palace of Westminster, to construct the body of the cross. The funds for the work were exhausted after only one statue had been completed—Edward III—and so the replica stood for many years with the other alcoves remaining empty. The remaining statues were eventually installed in 1889, having been commissioned from a prolific craftsman of the region, Harry Hems. The remains of the replica cross can be seen in nearby Berkeley Square, where they were transferred in about 1950.
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- M. J. H. Liversidge (1978), The Bristol High Cross, Historical Association,
According to tradition the High Cross is supposed to have been erected in 1373 to commemorate the charter granted by Edward III which conferred upon Bristol the status of a county in its own right...
- "The Bristol High Cross", The National Heritage List for England, English Heritage, 9 Sep 1987
- "Bristol High Cross", The Gentleman's Magazine 37, January 1852: 21–24
- Jean Manco (2006), "Ricart's View of Bristol", Bristol Magazine
- John Chilcott (1846), Chilcott's descriptive history of Bristol (7 ed.), pp. 21–23
- Farr, William (21 April 1857). "On the pay of ministers of the Crown". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Royal Statistical Society) 20: 103.
- Flickr photos of the group