The original location of Charing Cross is now occupied by a statue of Charles I, and it is the point from which all distances to London are measured.
Charing Cross was one of 12 "Eleanor Crosses"
Charing Cross was one of 12 "Eleanor Crosses" erected by a disconsolate Edward I when his wife Queen Eleanor of Castile died in 1290. [..] Her body was [..] carried in a somber procession to Westminster Abbey in London.
At each place where the procession stopped for the night, Edward had built a memorial cross in her honour. Today only the crosses at Waltham Cross (Hertfordshire), Geddington, and Hardingstone (both Northamptonshire) remain, and the cross at Charing is remembered only in the name Charing Cross.
"Charing Cross was demolished in 1647, and in its place the equestrian Statue of Charles I, made for a site at Roehampton but never put up there, appeared in 1675."
"The cross was removed by Parliament in 1647 as an idolatrous object and its site is now occupied by the statue of Charles I. by the Huguenot sculptor Hubert le Sueur [..] cast in 1633. [..] It was removed during the Commonwealth and sold to a brazier named Rivett to be melted down. He sold knives and other souvenirs supposedly from the metal but actually hid the statue in his garden and produced it for triumphal re-erection at the Restoration in 1660. Although only 5 feet 4 inches tall, the king obviously have liked to be taller, for the specification for the statue ran:
Philip Somervail • Link
Re: ‘Charing Cross was one of 12 “Eleanor Crosses” ‘
There was also an Eleanor Cross at Cheapside that may have been familiar to Pepys as a child, as it was demolished in 1643 when he was aged 9 or 10 (some of its decorative stonework can be seen at the Museum of London). The Encyclopaedia of London (edited by Weinreb & Hibbert, 1983 edition) has this to say on the subject:
“At the corner of Wood Street was the Cheapside Cross built in 1290 by order of Edward I at one of the resting places of Queen Eleanor’s coffin. It was three storeys high and was decorated with statues of the Pope, the Virgin and Child and the Apostles. In the 16th century it was constantly attacked by Puritans; and in 1643 it was demolished by workmen protected by soldiers ‘to cleanse that great street of superstition’.”
(This Cross is shown in the picture attached to Stuart Woodward’s annotation listed under ‘Cheapside’ on 11th January.)
Incidentally, I have heard it suggested that the name ‘Charing’ is derived from ‘Chere Reine’, i.e., ‘dear Queen’ (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/lj/churchlj/popup_...). More prosaically, however, but probably more realistically, Helen Bebbington in her book ‘London Street Names’ (1972) says that the name came from the old English word for turning or bend, ‘cierring’, referring to the Thames nearby.
Glyn • Link
It is incorrect to say that there's no longer an Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross. Certainly it's not the original but a replica - but that's true of a lot of things in London - and it's a very accurate one. I think it was put up in Victorian times and you'll see it outside the railway station.
David Quidnunc • Link
A Cavalier Ballad
"The Lawyers' Lamentation
For the Loss of Charing-Cross"
1. "Undone! undone! the lawyers cry,
They ramble up and down;
We know not the way to Westminster
Now Charing-Cross is down
"Now fare thee well, old Charing-Cross,
Then fare thee well, old stump;
It was a thing set up by a King,
And so pull'd down by the rump."
5. "The Whigs they do affirm and say
To Popery it was bent,
For what I know it might be so,
For to church it never went,"
For the entire ballad:
Glyn • Link
Contemporary drawing from the 1630s of what may be an Eleanor Cross: the caption says it's a monument erected by Edward I to his wife, but this was in Cheapside and I don't know if any Eleanor Crosses were erected there. You can find further info about this illustration under the entry for "Cheapside":
tom pauling • Link
Sigmund Freud in a series of lectures at Clark University, Massachusetts in September 1909 suggests that the Eleanor Cross was for Chere Reine relying on Dr Ernest Jones. He described it as a mnemonic symbol and if you still want to feel sorry about Eleanor you may be experiencing hysteria as Barrristers do in wearing black robes to mourn Queen Anne who by statute made them scholars and gentlemen
Charing Cross' cachet also is used for a cross-roads (and the neighborhood) shown with a central marker (Charles I's statue?) on the left (west) side at navigational 9:00 of this segment of the 1746 map: http://www.motco.com/map/81002/SeriesSearchPlat...
Pedro • Link
Chequer Inn at Charing Cross.
Each regiment (army) maintained an “orderly man” at the Chequer Inn for the purpose of transmitting orders from London to the regiments.
(Childs…Army of Charles II)
Charing Cross denotes the junction of the Strand, Whitehall and Cockspur Street, just south of Trafalgar Square in Westminster within Central London, England. It is named after the site of a long demolished Eleanor cross (now occupied by a statue of King Charles I mounted on a horse) located at the former hamlet of Charing, at this point. Since the second half of the 18th century Charing Cross has been seen as the centre of London. It is the primary of the central datum points for measuring distances from London along with the London Stone, Hicks Hall and the doors of St Mary-le-Bow church.
The statue of Charles I. in Charing Cross erected in 1675 was evidently a long time being finished. (A common urban complaint, it seems.) And so it provided a topic for Andrew Marvell:
THE STATUE AT CHARING CROSS,
What can be the mystery? why Charing Cross
This five months continues still muffled with board;
Dear Wheeler, impart, we are all at a loss,
Unless we must have Punchinello restored.
(And finally decides that Charles I. might not have approved of his son.)
So the statue will up after all this delay,
But to turn the face towards Whitehall you must shun;
Though of brass, yet with grief it would melt him away
To behold such a prodigal Court and a son
Charing Cross, a triangular opening at the junction of the Strand, Whitehall, and Cockspur Street, and so called from the cross of stone erected, 1291-1294, to Eleanor, Queen of Edward I., being the last stage at which the Queen's body stopped previous to its interment in Westminster Abbey. The origin of the word Charing has not been satisfactorily explained.
The Eleanor Crosses, twelve in number, were erected in the following places: Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington near Kettering, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St . Albans, Waltham, Cheap, and Charing. Three remain, Northampton, Geddington, and Waltham. Charing Cross, from the money laid out upon it, would appear to have been by far the most sumptuous.
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.
Charing Cross, opposite the west end of the Strand, is so denominated from a village called Charing, in which Edward I. caused a magnificent cross to be erected in commemoration of his beloved Queen Eleanor, part of which continued till the civil wars in the reign of Charles I. when it was entirely destroyed by the populace, as a monument of popish superstition.
---London and Its Environs Described. R. Dodsley, 1761.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.