Geddington’s Queen Eleanor Cross

Last updated on January 17th, 2024 at 05:22 pm

Geddington is an attractive Northamptonshire village, with Saxon roots.  It boasts an ancient church, St Mary Magdalene, and a ford over the River Ise with an attractive old bridge, said to date from 1250, alongside.  However, it is probably most famous for its Eleanor Cross, the best preserved of three of the twelve original crosses built to mark the funerary procession of Eleanor of Castile.

Geddington's Eleanor Cross from the churchyard.

Geddington has a history with the Plantagenet kings and queens of England.  In the 12th century, a royal hunting lodge was built close by the church.  The lodge, sometimes referred to as ‘the Palace of Geddington’, was often used by King Henries II & III, and by King John.  Richard I (“the Lionheart”) is said to have played host to King William of Scotland there.  Edward I and his Queen, Eleanor of Castile, often stayed at the lodge.  Indeed, they did so in September 1290, breaking a journey north.  However, sadly, on 28 November, Eleanor died in the village of Harby, close to where Nottinghamshire borders Lincolnshire.

St Mary Magdalene, Geddington, Northamptonshire
Edward was desolated by his wife’s death.  He had married Eleanor in 1254, when he was just 15 and she merely 9 years old.  Although these ages seem uncomfortably young to us, they made a good team and were an exceptionally close couple who even went on military campaign together.  After three days of mourning in Harby, Edward set off back south to London to bury his queen in Westminster.  And he resolved to build a memorial to Eleanor, a cross, at every location her body rested overnight on the long journey south.

Eleanor Cross in the middle of Geddington.
Travelling via Lincoln, then Grantham and Stamford, Geddington was the fourth stop.  Given that Edward knew the place well, it was a natural to spend the night there.  The sombre party escorting the queen on her final journey arrived on the night of 6th December.  It was winter and probably cold.  Eleanor’s mortal remains lay in the church of St Mary Magdalene overnight, while we assume Edward stayed in the lodge he had last shared with his wife of 36 years.  Leaving the following morning, their next stop was Hardingstone.  Thereafter, they would rest at Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans and Waltham, before entering London.  The last two crosses were at Cheapside, in the City and, finally, Charing, just outside the Palace of Westminster, where present-day Trafalgar Square is. A replica of that cross now sits outside Charing Cross Station.

Edward never visited Geddington again. He remarried – apparently happily – and died in 1307 at Burgh by Sands.  However, his body rests not far from Eleanor’s, in Westminster.  She must have been quite a woman.

Photo of the Geddington cross with the Star Pub
Eleanor’s Cross in Geddington stands just by the church, at the centre of the village, opposite a tempting-looking pub, and is visible from all around.  It is made of limestone and was designed as a five-level structure, with a central shaft rising from a hexagonal base of steps.  Despite missing its top cross, it is highly decorated, finely engraved and must be pretty close to the pinnacle of 13th century stone carving.  Representations of Eleanor, sculpted from Caen stone, are set into niches, and sculpted shields show the arms of Castile, Leon, England and Ponthieu.  The shaft is decorated with roses, which may reflect Eleanor’s love of gardens.  The shaft also seems to be emerging from a chamfered base, reminiscent of a tomb.  The entire monument is about 42 feet (almost 13 metres) high.

Statue of Eleanor of Castile
Sadly, I didn’t have time to explore the church, or the pub, when I visited Geddington, but there is a very good village website.  Let me know what the pub’s like, won’t you?

Bridge over the Ise and ford in Geddington, Northamptonshire.


13 thoughts on “Geddington’s Queen Eleanor Cross”

  1. The church in Geddington has tons of history too. The door is still there in the church, which led to the Royal Hunting Lodge. The original norman arches can also still be seen.

  2. Fascinating Mike … and that looks like a packhorse bridge through the village … cheers Hilary

  3. I didn’t know there was such a well preserved Eleanor cross anywhere – the replicas just aren’t as interesting. I have never found Northamptonshire an attractive county (sorry to anyone who lives there and reads this) but this village is really lovely so perhaps I have not managed to get quite enough off the beaten track there in the past.

      1. I am sorry for sounding so dismissive about Northamptonshire actually, as I am convinced that there is lots to see (actually I have also remembered the fab Weston Hall, and have just also remembered Ashby St Ledgers now you have written such a fascinating post about it above. But one way or another I always seem to end up there driving past industrial estates and car showrooms and housing estates.( I haven’t tried it with an OS map to hand, though. Maybe that is the answer)

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