Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kings and Stony Stratford - 4 King Edward I

It is highly probable that medieval kings traveled through Stony Stratford on a number of occasions, given their itinerant lifestyle. Unfortunately, at this distance in time we can only work from actual surviving records. King John issued a charter at Stony Stratford on 22nd February 1215 so we know he was there. His son Henry III may have passed through Stony Stratford several times during his long reign, but there is no record.  Edward I must have travelled up and down this road on many occasions to reach the north of England or North Wales, but the only recorded time was after the death of his wife Eleanor of Castile. They were married in 1254 and by all contemporary accounts the marriage was a happy one. She accompanied him everywhere and managed to give birth to 16 children over a period of 30 years. The last born in 1284 became Edward II.

She died at Lincoln on November 28th 1290 and her grieving husband accompanied the funeral cortege from Lincoln to London. The route went from Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham. Westcheap in London  and finally Charing, now of course known as Charing Cross. Each of these places was an overnight stop.

Edward ordered that a cross should be erected at each overnight stop. They were originally wooden, but after a few years each was replaced by a stone cross. The Stony Stratford Cross, which was probably on the High Street at the entrance to the town remained there for a few hundred years until it was destroyed during the civil war. The base of the cross remained for some time after and was then removed. Nobody knows when.

The slight widening of the road here shows that houses were built round the cross.
The location suggests that they stayed at the nearby inn, probably Grik's Herber, later known as the Barley Mow.

The cortege travelled from Hardingstone the previous night, about 14 miles away. One wonders what sort of accommodation could be found in Hardingstone and why Edward did not stay in Northampton. Perhaps he stopped at Hardingstone and his retinue stayed in Northampton. The Hardingstone Cross is one of three survivors. The Stony Stratford Cross was probably similar.

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