A cross is known to have existed in Grantham Market Place since at least 1280. There have been two or three replacements since then and the present one dates from 1884. Over that period, the Market Cross has had several important local people walk under its shadow and also witnessed events that have changed the world.
Two crosses in Grantham vie for the title of Grantham Cross.
The first is the current Market Cross (shown left), which dates from 1884 and was restored in 1910.
There was a stream in the market, fed by a spring, and in 1597 a conduit was laid to convey water from the stream to a market pump. There was also a water trough and a stone to help riders to mount horses near the cross.
Also in Grantham there was, hundreds of years ago, an Eleanor Cross, erected in memory of Queen Eleanor who died in 1290. Her funeral cortege rested overnight at Grantham as it made its way from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey in London for a state funeral service.
The Eleanor Cross was built in 1300 but we do not know precisely where. A Market Cross is recorded to have been in existence ten years earlier and the Eleanor Cross may have been in addition to this.
As for the location of the Eleanor Cross, we read in the Historical Notes on Grantham, compiled in 1857 by Rev. B. Street, Curate at Grantham:
At the upper end of High-street, where it widens out West of St. Peter's Hill, stood a Cross of Stone, recording the resting of Queen Eleanor's corpse, at Grantham, in November, 1290. It was destroyed, together with other time hallowed monuments at Grantham, by the Parliamentary soldiers in the Civil War, most probably in 1645, when the town was garrisoned by the rebels under Colonel Rossiter.
At the Alderman's Court, held Feb. 19, 1646, at the Guildhall, Grantham, it was ordered that the town Constables should recover, from those inhabitants who had appropriated them to their own use, as many as possible of the stones which came off the cross at the upper end of High-street, commonly called the Queen's Cross, and carry and lay them in the Church. A Mr Howgrave, apparently in a letter addressed to Gough, the Editor of Camden, says, "I saw a stone carved with foliage work, said to be part of it, and I believe it, seeming of that sort of work." This must have been in Charles the Second's reign.
The route which Queen Eleanor's funeral convoy followed, and the place from which it first moved, have been matters of dispute. The place where she died is also very variously given by the old and modern Chroniclers.
In 1548 the Market Cross saw the ceremonial burning of idolatrous icons, tapestries, paintings and books which had been removed from the nearby St. Wulfram's Church. This is a huge Norman church, which in 1300 was the tallest building in England. The Market Cross was replaced in 1779 and again in 1884.
As with many Market Crosses, it was the place from which important local and national announcements were proclaimed. Even today, the mayor announces the opening of the annual Mid-Lent fair, first granted by Richard III in 1483, every year from this spot.
In 1945/6 the Grantham mayor was the Methodist preacher Alderman Alfred Roberts and whose daughter, Margaret, married Dennis Thatcher and became Britain's first female Prime Minister. Not universally loved, but there's no doubt she played a major role in significant social and political changes of the 20th century.
When Newton saw an apple fall, he found ...
A mode of proving that the earth turned round
In a most natural whirl, called gravitation;
And thus is the sole mortal who could grapple
Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple.
Lord George Gordon Byron
St. Wulfram's Church is home to the country's first public library (from 1598). Grantham gave Britain its first female police officers, produced the world's first diesel engines and later the revolutionary caterpillar tracks. That patent was sold to Holts in California, now the Fortune 100 company CAT, "the world's largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines."
Grantham has given many things to the world. It's a shame they didn't keep the Eleanor Cross.
See also Newton's musical rainbow
Gravity is a law. Lawbreakers will be brought down!