Looking is possessing or the desire to posses- we eat food, we own objects and we ‘possess’ bodies- and there is no looking with out thoughts of using, possesing, repossessing, owning, fixing appropriating keeping, remembering and commemorating, cherishing, borrowing and stealing.
—The Object stares back - James Elkins
Tempus omnia revelat
Time reveals all
Listening to the historic heartbeat of the City of Leicester and its environs in the English East Midlands
A reflection of past and present thoughts and aspirations
The High Cross
The High Cross stood at the very centre of the medieval town where the north-south route of Highcross Street intersected the Swinesgate, now the modern High Street. For centuries, this was the economic heart of the town where the thriving Wednesday Market stood until 1884; and along the course of Highcross Street, or near to it, stood many of the most important buildings of the time.
Today, Highcross Street hardly exists. To the south of the location of the High Cross the road has been re-named St Nicholas Place and Applegate; to the north, it is bisected by the Central Ring Road. Although the latest redevelopment schemes are breathing some new life into the area, a sense of neglect still haunts many of its buildings
John Flower’s lithograph of about 1830 portrays the High Cross in a view which looks north along Highcross Street with the cross itself in the foreground and the Old Grammar School in the distance.
Next to the Grammar School is the dominant presence of the Old Borough Gaol. A shop occupies the next plot, and then a public house. Note the two men attempting to roll a barrel of ale into the pub, just to the right of the cross.
The same view in 2006. The Old Grammar School has survived, but has lost its upper storey of windows; the shop, originally constructed in 1772, remains, as does the pub.
On the left (northern) side of the shop is the only surviving stone work from the former Borough Gaol, almost concealed from view by a modern drainpipe. Several gaols stood on Highcross Street, the earliest probably being the borough gaol which seems likely to have existed in 1297. The building in Flower’s illustration was built in 1700-1702 and designed by George Moneypenny of Derby. Some alterations took place in 1803 under the direction of architect William Oldham.
The photograph above records the demolition of the gaol in about 1897. The northern wing of the building has already been dismantled and a poster hoarding advertises the sale of the land. The poster is actually on Freeschool Lane. The shop and pub, as illustrated by Flower, can be seen on the right of the photograph, partly obscured by the market trader’s canopy.
There was a cross in this vicinity as early as 1278 when records indicate that it was repaired. It was rebuilt again in 1314. A new cross was erected in 1577 slightly to the north of the original location (where the market stood), but most of this structure was dismantled and sold in 1773 except for one section that remained standing until 1836.
This location of the market cross, as indicated in Flower’s lithograph, is now marked by three paving stones set into the tarmac of the carriageway, several metres to the north of the modern intersection of High Street, Highcross Street and St Nicholas Place. Adjacent to this marker, on the wall of the (modern) public house which now dominates the corner of High Street and Highcross Street is a blue plaque, erected by Leicester City Council.
The uppermost section of the Market Cross, after having stood briefly in front of the Crescent in King Street and from 1940 in the garden of the Newarke Houses Museum was re-erected close to the modern Market Place at the end of Cheapside (above left).
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All text and images © Stephen Butt 2005 Rev 04/03/06