A ten-month project to repair and restore the 145 year-old Eleanor Cross on the forecourt of Charing Cross station has been completed, safeguarding the historic landmark for future generations.
The condition of the Eleanor Cross, the original of which historically marked the centre of London, had been in deterioration over the years as weather and pollution took their toll on the stone monument. Owing to its vulnerable condition, it was placed on the English Heritage At Risk Register in 2008, so a plan of action could be identified.
Robert Thornton, Network Rail’s principal architect, said: “London is a railway city. Since it arrived in the capital in 1836, communities and businesses have relied on rail to go about their daily lives and support the economy, which remains the case today. The Eleanor Cross represents part of London’s railway history, is a well-established landmark in the West End and something that should be preserved for future generations of residents and visitors.”
Timothy Jones, English Heritage team leader for Westminster and West London, said: “Monuments such as the memorial cross at Charing Cross are a hugely important component of London’s heritage – an invaluable part of the city’s personality and interest – which allow visitors and Londoners alike a glimpse into the capital’s long, complex and fascinating history. Although not one of the original crosses created by Edward l for his beloved wife, Eleanor of Castile, this Victorian recreation is a fine example of architect EM Barry’s work, and we are delighted to see it so beautifully and carefully restored, and happily, it can now be removed from our Heritage at Risk Register.”
Chris Gladwell, associate director, PAYE, added: “It has been a pleasure to work on a structure of such high quality craftsmanship, and we are grateful that Network Rail gave us this opportunity. The skills needed to carry out intricate carved work to this standard are still available, but it is only through the continued training provided by institutions such as the City and Guilds of London Art School, where many of the masons trained, together with the support of clients committed to quality that this can be carried forward into the future.”
The restoration work started in October 2009, although scaffolding has been set up around the monument for almost five years for inspection and safety purposes. The first phase was to clean the entire monument using a combination of steam and a fine spray of water to remove dirt and debris without damaging the stone. Once the monument was clean, a detailed inspection was carried out to plan the restoration work.
Repairs to the eight-sided structure were carried out by specialist stone contractors PAYE Stonework & Restoration. They included recreating and attaching almost 100 missing ornamental features including heraldic shields, an angel, pinnacles, crockets and finials; securing weak or fractured masonry with stainless steel pins and rods and re-attaching decorative items which had previously been removed after becoming loose.
The restoration was a complex piece of work. Owing to the age, condition and intricacy of the monument, much of the work had to be carried out using hand tools. Furthermore, the Red Mansfield stone used on the original monument is no longer quarried, so alternative materials needed to be researched to fine the best match.