Cross almost a forgotten relic

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Many of your readers have asked me to explain the origin of “born below the Pump”, an old description of “a true Scarborian” (Letters, July 5).

West Sandgate was known colloquially as “Pump Hill” because once it led up to a water pump at the junction with Low Conduit Street, the previous name for what has become the south side of Princess Square (“City Square” to locals).

Low Conduit was the last surface water trough of the underground pipe line that ran all the way from Falsgrave springs. The upper conduit was at the junction of Newborough and St Thomas Street and the middle conduit at the top of St Sepulchre Street. These three conduits were the town’s only free public water suppliers until the 1840s.

“Below the Butter Cross” (Letters, July 12) was a term new to me, though of course the Cross was and still is at or near the top of West Sandgate. Unfortunately, there is still much confusion and error regarding the origins and site of the Butter Cross.

References to it can be found as early as 1395 in the reign of Richard II. Today it is the only survivor of several medieval market crosses, such as the Corn, the Rede and St Helen’s, after which St Helen’s Square and Cross Street are named.

The original St Helen’s Cross was demolished in 1802, but the Butter Cross, the site of the Thursday market, was located close to its present position at least as early as 1608.

The Butter Cross is a 14th century remnant of one of Scarborough’s friary chapels or the church of the Holy Sepulchre and probably lost its cross arm at the time of the Reformation when all Scarborough’s religious houses were dissolved. In the mid-19th century it was moved a little southwards to widen the entrance to Princess Street.

When the south side of Princess Square was rebuilt in the early 1950s, the building line was moved forward to envelop and hide this Grade One monument. Like so much of Scarborough’s precious architectural heritage, the Butter Cross is almost forgotten, neglected and vandalised.

Jack Binns

Chatsworth Gardens

Scarborough