The Bristol High Cross figures 1950s

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    image above: College Green Bristol 1950s.

    These are the vandal-damaged figures of Kings and Queens from Bristol's High Cross that once stood in College Green part of the cross was later rebuilt in Berkeley Square Clifton.

    The four statues which decorate the Arno's Vale archway are 20th century copies of 13th and 14th century originals. The original statues of King Edward I and King Edward III were set in one of the deep niches on the western side that have tent-like canopies. The original statues were taken from Bristol's Lawfords' Gate that was demolished around the time of construction of the arch. Those on the east-side are 13th century figures from Bristol's Newgate representing Robert, the builder of Bristol Castle, and Geoffrey de Montbray, bishop of Coutances, builder of the fortified walls of Bristol. The originals of all four were removed due to their deteriorating condition in 1898 and they are now in the St Nicholas's Church Museum.

    The High Cross once stood at the junction of High Street, Broad Street, Wine Street and Corn Street, the four principal thoroughfares of the city.

    There were niches containing the statues of Kings John, Henry III, Edward III and Edward IV. All these had contributed to Bristol's expansion and trade by conferring important charters. The whole Cross was gilded and coloured.

    In 1633 the Cross was repaired and altered to include the figures of Henry VI, Elizabeth, James I and Charles I, who had further endowed privileges on the city. The Cross was later painted vermilion and blue and gold.

    In later years such a large object surrounded by steps and an iron fence began to be viewed as an obstruction in the busy streets. In 1733 the deputy chamberlain Mr Vaughan, who lived at the corner of High and Wine Street, claimed his life and house were in danger from it every time the wind blew. The 'progressive' magistrates ordered that the Cross be put away in the Guidhall.

    After protests the High Cross was re-erected on College Green. However, in 1763 the fashionable set, 'who walked eight or ten abreast at that place', declared it a nuisance because it impeded their promenading. As it stood on land owned by the Cathedral it was deposited in a corner. In 1768 it was given away by the Dean of Bristol to his friend Henry Hoare of Stourhead, to use as an estate ornament.

    In 1850 a copy was made and erected on College Green. For nearly forty years seven of the niches were empty but then statues based on the originals were commissioned from the sculptor Harry Hems to fill the spaces. The statues above are his work.

    The statues were added in 1888 when the new version of the Cross was moved to the centre of College Green in because its site was required for the erection of a statue of Queen Victoria. However the position of the Cross became a problem again in the 20th century.

    Unfortunately it did not fit in with the modern plans of the architect of the new Council House being built and this High Cross was in turn banished, this time to Berkeley Square, in Clifton.The top section only is on view.

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