Charing Cross (/ˌtʃærɪŋ ˈkrɒs/) denotes the junction of
Whitehall and Cockspur Street, just south of Trafalgar Square
in central London. It gives its name to several landmarks, including
Charing Cross railway station, one of the main London rail terminals.
Charing Cross is named after the
Eleanor cross that stood on the site,
in what was once the hamlet of Charing. The site of the cross has been
occupied since 1675 by an equestrian statue of King Charles I. A loose
Victorian replica of the medieval cross, the Queen Eleanor Memorial
Cross, was erected a short distance to the east outside the railway
Until 1931, "Charing Cross" referred to the part of
Great Scotland Yard
Great Scotland Yard and Trafalgar Square. At least one property
retains a "Charing Cross" postal address: Drummonds Bank, on the
Whitehall and The Mall, which is designated "49 Charing
Cross" (not to be confused with
Charing Cross Road).
Since the early 19th century,
Charing Cross has often been regarded as
the notional "centre of London", and is the point from which distances
from London are now measured.
1.1 Location and etymology
1.2 St Mary Rounceval
1.4 Civil war removal
2 Official use as central point
3 Neighbouring locations
6 External links
Location and etymology
A map showing the
Charing Cross ward of
Borough as it appeared in 1916.
"Erect a rich and stately carved cross,
Whereon her statue shall with glory shine;
And henceforth see you call it Charing Cross."
George Peele The Famous
Chronicle of King Edward the First (1593)
The name of the area, Charing, is derived from the
Old English word
"cierring", referring to a bend in the River Thames.
The addition of the name "Cross" to the hamlet's name originates from
Eleanor cross erected in 1291–94 by King Edward I as a memorial
to his wife, Eleanor of Castile, and placed between the former
hamlet of Charing and the entrance to the
Royal Mews of the Palace of
Whitehall (today the top of
Whitehall on the south side of Trafalgar
Square). Folk etymology suggests the name derives from chère reine
– "dear queen" in French – but the original name pre-dates
Eleanor's death by at least a hundred years.
This wooden sculpted cross was the work of the medieval sculptor,
Alexander of Abingdon. It was destroyed in 1647 on the orders of
Parliament during the Civil War. A 70 ft (21 m)-high
stone sculpture in front of
Charing Cross railway station
Charing Cross railway station is a copy of
the original cross. Erected in 1865, it is situated a few hundred
yards to the east of the original cross, on the Strand. It was
designed by the architect
E. M. Barry
E. M. Barry and carved by Thomas Earp of
Lambeth out of Portland stone,
Mansfield stone (a fine sandstone) and
Aberdeen granite. It is not a faithful replica, being more ornate than
A variation on the name appears to be "Charygcrouche", near St Martin
in the Fields, in 1396.
Since 1675 the site of the cross has been occupied by a statue of King
Charles I mounted on a horse. The site is recognised by modern
convention as the centre of London for the purpose of indicating
distances by road in favour of other measurement points (such as St
Paul's Cathedral which remains as the root of the English and Welsh
part of the Great Britain road numbering scheme).
Charing Cross is
marked on modern maps as a road junction, and was previously a postal
address denoting the stretch of road between
Great Scotland Yard
Great Scotland Yard and
Trafalgar Square. Since 1 January 1931 this section of road has been
designated part of the
The cross has given its name to a railway station, a tube station,
police station, hospital, a hotel, a theatre, and a music hall (which
lay beneath the arches of the railway station).
Charing Cross Road
Charing Cross Road the
main route from the north (which becomes the east side of Trafalgar
Square) was named after the railway station, which was a major
destination for traffic, rather than for the original cross.
St Mary Rounceval
An extract from John Rocque's Map of London, 1746, showing
Northumberland House. The two projecting garden wings had not yet been
At some time between 1232 and 1236, the Chapel and Hospital of St Mary
Rounceval was founded at Charing. It occupied land at the corner of
Whitehall and into the centre of Northumberland Avenue,
running down to a wharf by the river. It was an
tied to a mother house at
Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees. The house and
lands were seized for the king in 1379, under a statute "for the
forfeiture of the lands of schismatic aliens". Protracted legal action
returned some rights to the prior, but in 1414, Henry V suppressed the
'alien' houses. The priory fell into a long decline due to lack of
money and arguments regarding the collection of tithes with the parish
church of St Martin-in-the-Fields. In 1541, religious artefacts were
removed to St Margaret's, and the chapel was adapted as a private
house and its almshouse were sequestered to the Royal Palace.
Frontage onto Strand/
Charing Cross of
Northumberland House in 1752 by
Canaletto. The statue of Charles I can be seen to the right of the
painting. To the left can be seen the famous Golden Cross Inn, with
In 1608–09, the Earl of Northampton built
Northumberland House on
the eastern portion of the property. In June 1874, the whole of the
duke's property at Charing Cross, was purchased by the Metropolitan
Board of Works for the formation of Northumberland Avenue.
The frontage of the Rounceval property caused the narrowing at the end
Whitehall entry to Charing Cross, and formed the section of
Whitehall formerly known as Charing Cross, until road widening in the
1930s caused the rebuilding of the south side of the street, creating
the current wide thoroughfare.
Charing Cross was the site of the final battle of Wyatt's
Rebellion. This was an attempt by Thomas Wyatt and others to overthrow
Queen Mary I of England, soon after her accession to the throne and
replace her with Lady Jane Grey. Wyatt's army had come from Kent, and
London Bridge barred to them, had crossed the river by what was
then the next bridge upstream, at Hampton Court. Their circuitous
route brought them down
St. Martin's Lane
St. Martin's Lane to Whitehall.
The palace was defended by 1000 men under Sir John Gage at Charing
Cross; they retreated within
Whitehall after firing their shot,
causing consternation within, thinking the force had changed sides.
The rebels – themselves fearful of artillery on the higher ground
St James's – did not press their attack and marched onto
Ludgate, where they were met by the Tower Garrison and
Civil war removal
The Victorian replacement of the original Eleanor Cross; from which
the area derives its name.
Eleanor Cross was pulled down, by order of Parliament, in 1647, at
the time of the English Civil War, becoming the subject of a popular
Methinks the common-council shou'd
Of it have taken pity,
'Cause, good old cross, it always stood
So firmly in the city.
Since crosses you so much disdain,
Faith, if I were you,
For fear the King should rule again,
I'd pull down Tiburn too. (extract from "The Downfall of Charing
At the Restoration eight of the regicides were executed here,
including the notable Fifth Monarchist, Colonel Thomas Harrison. A
statue of Charles I was later erected on the site. This statue had
been made in 1633 by Hubert Le Sueur, in the reign of Charles I, but
in 1649 was ordered to be destroyed by Parliament. Subsequently, after
being hidden by the man charged with destroying the statue, it
resurfaced at the Restoration, and was erected here in 1675.
Pillory at Charing Cross. The statue of Charles I, to the right,
marks the site of the eponymous Cross.
A prominent pillory, where malefactors were publicly flogged, was
situated next to the statue of King Charles. To the south of
Charing Cross was the Hungerford Market, established at the end of the
16th century; and to the north was the King's Mews, a royal stable.
The area around the pillory was a popular place of street
Samuel Pepys records in his diaries visiting the
surrounding taverns and watching the entertainments and executions
that were held there. This whole area was transformed when
Trafalgar Square was built on the site in 1832.
A famous inn called the "Golden Cross" – first mentioned in 1643 –
stood in the former village of Charing. From here, in the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries, coaches departed by various routes to Dover,
Brighton, Bath, Bristol, Cambridge,
Holyhead and York. The inn
features in Sketches by Boz, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers
by Charles Dickens. In the last, the dangers to public safety of the
low archway between the inn to the street were memorably pointed out
by Mr Jingle :
"Heads, heads – take care of your heads", cried the loquacious
stranger as they came out under the low archway which in those days
formed the entrance to the coachyard. "Terrible place – dangerous
work – other day – five children – mother – tall lady, eating
sandwiches – forgot the arch – crash – knock – children look
round – mother's head off – sandwich in her hand – no mouth to
put it in – head of family off"
The story was based on an incident of 11 April 1800, when the Chatham
and Rochester coach was emerging from the gateway of the Golden Cross:
"a young woman, sitting on the top, threw her head back, to prevent
her striking against the beam; but there being so much luggage on the
roof of the coach as to hinder her laying herself sufficiently back,
it caught her face, and tore the flesh in a dreadful manner"
The inn was demolished for the creation of
Trafalgar Square and a new
Golden Cross Hotel was built in the 1830s on the triangular site now
fronted by South Africa House. Though this hotel is now also gone, the
memory is preserved in commercial offices facing the Strand named
Golden Cross House.
Main article: Queen Eleanor Memorial Cross
Charing Cross c.1833
The railway station opened in 1864, fronted on the Strand with the
Charing Cross Hotel. In 1865, a replacement cross was commissioned
E. M. Barry
E. M. Barry by the South Eastern Railway as the centrepiece of
the station forecourt. It is not a replica, being of an ornate
Victorian Gothic design based on George Gilbert Scott's Oxford
Martyrs' Memorial (1838). The Cross rises 70 feet (21 m) in three
main stages on an octagonal plan, surmounted by a spire and cross. The
shields in the panels of the first stage are copied from the Eleanor
Crosses and bear the arms of England, Castile, Leon and Ponthieu;
above the 2nd parapet are eight statues of Queen Eleanor. The Cross
was designated a Grade II* monument on 5 February 1970. The month
before, the bronze equestrian statue of Charles, on a pedestal of
Portland stone was given Grade I listed protection.
Fragments of the medieval original remain in the Museum of London.
Official use as central point
By the late 18th century, the
Charing Cross district was increasingly
coming to be perceived as the "centre" of the metropolis (supplanting
the traditional heartland of the City to the east). From the early
19th century, legislation applicable only to the London metropolis
Charing Cross as a central point to define its geographical
scope. Its later use in legislation waned in favour of providing a
schedule of local government areas and became mostly obsolete with the
official creation of
Greater London in 1965.
Metropolitan Police District
Metropolitan Police Act 1829
Metropolitan Police Act 1829 made provision that all parishes
within 12 miles of
Charing Cross could be added. This was expanded to
15 miles by the Metropolitan Police Act 1839.
Metropolitan Buildings Office
London Building Act 1844
London Building Act 1844 allowed that any place within 12 miles of
Charing Cross could be added to the area of responsibility.
Hackney carriage licensing and The Knowledge
The London Hackney Carriage Act 1831 and subsequent legislation set
the radius within which cab drivers were obliged to take a fare.
Streets within a six-mile radius of
Charing Cross are still included
in taxi driver training.
The Metropolitan Streets Act 1856 gave the Commissioner of
Metropolitan Police the power to control various activities within a
six-mile radius of Charing Cross. Powers to licence shoeblack pitches
are still in force but in practice are superseded by individual London
boroughs' street trading arrangements.
Plaque by the statue of Charles I, stating that "Mileages from London
are measured from the site of the original Cross"
Road distances from London continue to be measured from Charing Cross.
Prior to its selection as a commonly agreed central datum point,
various points were used for this purpose. John Ogilby's Britannia of
1675, of which editions and derivations continued to be published
throughout the 18th century, used the "Standard" (a former conduit
head) in Cornhill; while John Cary's New Itinerary of 1798 used
General Post Office
General Post Office in Lombard Street. The milestones on the
principal turnpike roads were generally measured from the terminus of
the individual road, mostly on the perimeter of the metropolitan area:
these points included Hyde Park Corner, Whitechapel Church, the
southern end of London Bridge, the southern end of
Tyburn Turnpike, Holborn Bars, St Giles's Pound,
Hicks Hall (the terminus of the Great North Road), and the Stones' End
in The Borough. Some roads into
St Mary-le-Bow church. Some of these structures
had been moved or destroyed, but their former locations continued to
be used for distances. The result was that "all the Books of Roads ...
published, differ in the Situation of Mile Stones, and instead of
being a Guide to the Traveller, serve only to confound him".
William Camden speculated in 1586 that
Roman roads in Britain
Roman roads in Britain had been
measured from London Stone, a claim that was subsequently widely
repeated, but that is unsupported by archaeological or other
Neighbouring areas of London.
via Golden Jubilee Bridges
via Waterloo Bridge
Charing Cross when
Network SouthEast was improving the railways in the
The front entrance of
Charing Cross railway station
Charing Cross railway station in a 19th-century
print. The cross in front of the station Hotel is a Victorian
replacement for the original
Eleanor Cross which stood near the site.
To the east of the
Charing Cross road junction is Charing Cross
railway station, situated on the Strand. On the other side of the
river, connected by the pedestrian Golden Jubilee Bridges, are
Waterloo East station
Waterloo East station and Waterloo station.
The nearest London Underground stations are
Charing Cross and
^ "Charing Cross" entry in Collins English Dictionary.
^ Local attractions –
Charing Cross Archived 26 March 2012 at the
Wayback Machine., londoncountyhall.com
^ https://www.flickr.com/photos/funfilledgeorgie/6350385659/ (note
also "Charing Cross" street sign, upper left)
Charing Cross – Britannica Online Encyclopedia".
library.eb.co.uk. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
^ Helen Bebbington London Street Names (1972) –
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Charing Cross". Encyclopædia
Britannica. 5 (11th ed.).
Cambridge University Press.
^ "The Eleanor Crosses". Eleanor of Castille. Museum of London.
Retrieved 12 November 2013.
^ Medieval and Renaissance: Past, Present and Future: Charing Cross
Stuart Frost (Victoria and Albert Museum) accessed 13 February 2009
^ Where Is The Centre Of London? BBC
^ a b c Charing Cross, the railway stations, and Old Hungerford
Market, Old and New London: Volume 3 (1878), pp. 123–134. accessed:
13 February 2009
^ Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives. CP
40/541; second entry, where one of the plaintiffs is from Flete
Charyngcrouche appears split between lines 4 & 5
^ Harold P. Clunn (1970) The Face of London: 254
^ Shaftesbury Avenue and
Charing Cross Road, Survey of London: volumes
33 and 34: St Anne
Soho (1966), pp. 296–312. Date accessed: 3 March
^ a b The chapel and hospital of St. Mary Rounceval, Survey of London:
St Martin-in-the-Fields II: The Strand (1937), pp. 1–9.
Date accessed: 14 February 2009
^ Northumberland House, Survey of London: volume 18: St
Martin-in-the-Fields II: The Strand (1937), pp. 10–20. Date
accessed: 14 February 2009
^ Alan Brooke and David Brandon (2004). Tyburn: London's Fatal Tree.
Stroud, Sutton: 238
^ Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (1983) The London Encyclopaedia:
^ Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (1983) The London Encyclopaedia:
^ A print drawn by
Augustus Pugin and
Thomas Rowlandson for Rudolph
Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808–11).
^ Arthur Groom (1928) Old London Coaching Inns and Their Successors: 3
^ Pepys Diary – frequent visits between 1660–69. Particularly 13
October 1660 – for his account of the execution of Harrison.
^ The Daily Register. April 1800
^ Historic England. "Details from image database (427795)". Images of
England. Retrieved 13 February 2009.
^ Historic England. "Details from image database (209087)". Images of
England. Retrieved 13 February 2009.
^ Barrell, John (2006). The Spirit of Despotism: invasions of privacy
in the 1790s. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 20–27, 34.
^ Ogilby, John (1675). "Preface". Britannia. London.
^ Cary, John (1798). "Advertisement". Cary's New Itinerary.
^ Paterson, Daniel. A New and Accurate Description of all the Direct
and Principal Cross Roads in Great Britain (12th ed.). London.
^ a b Answers and Returns Made Pursuant to an Act: Passed in the
Eleventh Year of the Reign of His Majesty King George IV. Intituled
"An Act for Taking an Account of the Population of Great Britain, and
of the Increase Or Diminution Thereof". January 1833.
^ Hissey, James J. (1910). The Charm of the Road. London: Macmillan.
p. 58. OCLC 5071681.
^ Historic England. "Bow Bell
Milestone 35 miles from London
(1252622)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 July
^ The Traveller's Pocket-Book: or, Ogilby and Morgan's Book of the
Roads Improved and Amended, in a method never before attempted.
London. 1760. p. iv.
^ Clark, John (2007). "Jack Cade at London Stone" (PDF). Transactions
of London and Middlesex Archaeological Society. 58: 169–89
Charing Cross Bridge in London from Claude Monet, in YOUR CITY AT THE
THYSSEN, a Thyssen Museum project on Flickr
'The statue of Charles I and site of the Charing Cross', Survey of
London: volume 16:
St Martin-in-the-Fields I:
Charing Cross (1935),
pp. 258–268. URL:
accessed: 6 March 2014.
City of Westminster
Aldwych (see also Strand)
Hyde Park (in commercial use)
including Little Venice
St John's Wood
West End theatre
Parks and open spaces
St James's Park
Cities of London and Westminster
Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges
Rail and tube stations
Great Portland Street
Hyde Park Corner
St. James's Park
St. John's Wood
Tottenham Court Road
Art and architecture
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings