Ludgershall Market Cross
Ludgershall Market Cross

In the centre of Ludgershall town, a short stroll from the ruins of Ludgershall Castle, stands the remains of a 14th-century market cross. What we see today is the base of a much larger cross.

Each face of the cross base is carved with an elaborate niche, and within each niche are Biblical scenes. Though the carvings are very worn in places, it is the detail of carving that makes the Ludgershall cross such an important historical survivor.

The cross would have originally stood in an open market place about 50m south-west of its present location. The medieval market site has been built over and is no longer visible.

We do not know exactly when the first market was held in Ludgershall, but it must have been at least 1255, when records show that several inhabitants of the town committed offences at the market. The market continued until at least 1756, but by the late 18th century Ludgershall was no longer a market town.

The cross and Victorian railings
The cross and Victorian railings

The cross may have been the gift of Edward III (reigned 1327–77) and Queen Philippa, who are known to have stayed at Ludgershall Castle. With a royal presence at the castle, the town and its market would have been an important centre for trade.

The original cross stood 6-7m high, with a tall octagonal shaft rising above the surviving base. It acted as a focal point for not just market trading but also for religious processions.

The East Face

This face of the cross (facing the Queen's Head pub) is carved with The Descent from the Cross, showing Christ's body being lowered from the cross. You can clearly see the cross itself, the figure of Mary on the left and St John to the right, holding a Bible. Two smaller figures representing Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea lower the body from the cross. The figure of Nicodemus is removing the final nail holding Christ to the cross.

The east face 'Descent from the Cross' carving
The east face 'Descent from the Cross' carving

The South Face

The southern panel depicts a tall central figure flanked by two small figures. Historians disagree on the meaning of this scene. One theory is that it depicts the Three Marys (Mary Magdalene and two other Marys, among them Mary of Clopas). An alternative theory is that this scene depicts the Road to Emmaus, with the taller figure representing Christ meeting two of his disciples.

The south face 'The Three Marys' carving
The south face 'The Three Marys' carving

The West Face

Facing the road (away from the pub) is a scene that may represent the Harrowing of Hell. Here you see four identical figures inside a cave-linke structure, each with their arms upraised. Facing them outside the structure is a large figure with its right arm aloft, perhaps golding a spear. This may represent Jesus breaking open the gates of Hell.

The west face 'Harrowing of Hell' carving
The west face 'Harrowing of Hell' carving

The final, north face of the cross is very worn and very hard to interpret. It may depict Christ rising up to heaven (the Ascension).

The cross is protected by iron railings erected in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Getting There

The market cross is outside the Queens's Head pub on the High Street (the A342) in the centre of the town. There is on-street parking, or you can park at the Ludgershall Castle car park, 100 yards away. The cross is not signposted but it is very easy to see on the east side of the road.

About Ludgershall Medieval Market Cross
Address: High Street, Ludgershall, Wiltshire, England, SP11 9QR
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: On High Street outside the Queen's Head pub. Parking along the street.
Website: Ludgershall Medieval Market Cross
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
Location map
OS: SU264509
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express

Best of Britain Express Art Prints

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