In the middle of a north London road junction can be found a 400 year old stone tower that once gave its name to this part of London.

This is the Tottenham High Cross, erected sometime between 1600 and 1609 by Owen Wood, a local resident and later Dean of Armagh, on the site of a wooden wayside cross first mentioned in 1409. It marks what was the centre of Tottenham Village. In fact, the area later became known as High Cross before later urban expansion saw it revert back to being part of Tottenham.

The location is the old Roman road of Ermine Street that ran from London (Londinium) to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) and York (Eboracum) – but today is known as the A10 or Tottenham High Road.

Despite its name, Ermine Street is nothing to do with fur clothing but is a later corruption of Earninga Strǣt , named after the Earningas tribe based in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

The high cross was constructed of plain brick in an octagonal, four-level design, which was later stuccoed and ornamented in the Gothic style in 1809.

Prior to that, the column was plainer and may have had a sundial mounted on it, with some other unidentifiable wooden signs below. After the redecoration, it was also protected with an iron fence, although not the one that’s there today, as the original was removed in the 19th century.

It looks as if it’s standing in the middle of the road, but that’s a modern change, as it never used to.

It’s not that the stone tower has moved, but the roads, as a new junction was constructed during post-war clearance. That saw several blocks of housing demolished and rebuilt, losing one side road, but gaining a much larger road junction.

The High Cross tower became marooned in a triangle of pavement, and I feel it has lost some of its impact in the area as it is no longer on the main pavement.

Finally, it used to have a Christian cross on the top, but at some point, it was secularised, and the cross was replaced with a wind vane.


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  1. Sykobee says:

    The High Cross Craft Beer Pub that now inhabits the public toilets in the background of your photo is also very nice and has pie+pint deals on a Tuesday.

  2. Robin hawker says:

    I always thought the cross had something to do with ELIZABETH 1ST stopping in the vacinaty on her way to London from one of her palaces in the country and where she and her “court” stopped over night these crosses were erected to mark their there any truth in that.

    • Reaper says:

      I think not, otherwise the country would be covered in them. Are you not getting confused with the Eleanor crosses that marked the places that the body of Eleanor of Aquataine stopped on its way to its burial?

    • Juno says:

      Reaper, that was Eleanor of Castile, Edward I’s queen. Eleanor of Aquitaine and her husband Henry II and family were buried in Fontevraud, but seem to have vanished during the revolution.

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