Mar 29th, 2013 | | Exterior | Monuments | Portfolio | 6 Comments

Market Cross, Beverley, East Yorkshire

Beverley Market Cross - Wikipedia

I am frequently asked for advice on the redecoration of historic structures. This may be by local authorities, heritage bodies or residents concerned at intended development in the area.

In this case I was asked to help with the selection of paint and colour on an eighteenth century building in the centre of Beverley, East Yorkshire. Beverley was described by Pevsner as “among the finest of England’s small country towns”.1

As part of the recently announced £2.5 million makeover of Saturday Market, the Grade I listed Market Cross was in need of a repair and a repaint.

The Cross was designed by Theophilus Shelton of Wakefield and built between 1711 and 1714. It was constructed at the expense of the then MPs, Sir Charles Hotham Bart and Sir Michael Warton. The cross displays their coats of arms as well as well as those of Beverley and the Royal Arms of Queen Anne.

It consists of four pairs of coupled Roman Doric columns in stone standing on an octagonal base of three steps. It has a full entablature with triglyphs, unadorned metopes and guttae. On the south side are four carved cartouches displaying the arms mentioned above. Above the entablature is a further cartouche which forms part of a tablet carved in relief with trophies of arms.2 The cartouche is surmounted by a head with head-dress displaying Prince of Wales feathers and it contains the following inscription:

“This cross was built at the expense of Sir Charles Hotham Bart, and Sir Michael Warton Knt. Members of Parliament for this Corporation Anno Domini 1714. Repaired AD 1769 Wm Leake Esq, Mayor”

Cartouche - Beverley Market Cross


Eight enriched urns by Crabtree and Rushworth added in 1769 stand over the columns. The Cross has a leaded octagonal cupola roof with an elaborate square glazed lantern surmounted by an obelisk and cross and gilded ball.3

Beverley Market Cross - Andy Marshall
Beverley Market Cross – credit Andy Marshall

Before offering suggestions on the use of colour for the body of the Cross I focussed on the heraldic shields themselves. I was mindful that on a previous project – on the arms above Dudley House, in Park Lane, London – two of the nine quarterings had been incorrectly painted and families with no connection to the Dudleys had been indicated. The last thing that anyone wanted was for the same kind of mistake to be made in such a public location.

A whole language has developed to describe the appearance of heraldic arms (the shield). With this blazon the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image.

The principal heraldic colours (or tinctures) are as follows:

Sable – Black
Gules – Red
Azure – Blue
Vert – Green

There are also two Metals:

Or – Gold (frequently shown as yellow)
Argent – Silver (usually shown as white as silver tarnishes)

Hotham Arms
Hotham Arms

A bit of basic research told me that the arms of the Hotham family were blazoned:

Barry of ten, Argent and Azure, on a Canton Or, a Cornish Chough, Proper

As an explanation – when the shield is patterned with a number of horizontal (fesswise) stripes, this is described as Barry e.g. of six or eight, usually of a colour and metal specified, e.g. Barry of six Argent and Azure (this implies that the chiefmost stripe is Argent and the second is Azure – i.e. silver and blue).

Barry of ten Argent and AzureBarry of ten Argent and Azure

Barry of ten Argent and Azure

For some reason the Hotham arms are shown with Barry of eleven rather than ten, but, given the construction of the shield, this cannot be changed. My understanding is that Barry of ten should be shown as above:

Argent a Canton Gules
Argent a Canton Gules

A Canton is a square charge placed in the upper dexter corner (a small device in the top L/H corner – looking at the shield).

Cornish Chough - Wikipedia
Cornish Chough

A Cornish Chough is a type of blackbird and Proper means in naturalistic colours i.e black.

The Red Hand
The Red (left) Hand – The Badge of the Baronet

The red hand on a shield in the centre is the sign of a baronet. The order of baronets was created by James I in order to raise money. Nominally this was for the upkeep of military forces in Ireland, hence the badge of the Red Hand of Ulster featuring as a baronet’s device. At the same time the Red Hand is not invariably shown in a baronet’s coat of arms.

Warton arms
Warton arms

Further research indicated that the Warton arms were blazoned:

Or, on a Chevron Azure a Martlet between two Pheons of the first

This indicates that a blue chevron is placed on a gold background and that on the chevron is a gold martlet between two broad arrow heads.

Martlet – Sable in this case

A martlet in English heraldry is a heraldic charge depicting a stylized bird similar to that of a house martin or swallow, though missing legs.


A pheon or broad arrow is a type of arrow with a typically flat barbed head.

Royal Arms of Queen Anne
Royal Arms of Queen Anne

The Royal Arms were immediately recognisable, but I had to ensure that they were those of Queen Anne, who reigned from 1707-1714 (the period when the Cross was erected). The Union with Scotland in 1707 had been marked by placing the Arms of England and those of Scotland side by side in the first and fourth quarters. The fleurs-de-lis of France took over the whole second quarter, and Ireland’s harp the third. The blazon being:

Quarterly 1 and 4, England and Scotland impaled, in quarter 2 France, in quarter 3 Ireland

So far these three arms had been correctly painted, but it was when I examined those of Beverley itself that I realised there had been an earlier mistake.

Beverley - Incorrect Arms

Beverley – Incorrect Arms

In the photograph that was sent to me the arms of Beverley appear to have a chief of Gules (red). In heraldic blazon, a chief is a charge on a coat of arms that takes the form of a band running horizontally across the top edge of the shield.

From what I gathered the shield is that used by the former Beverley Borough Council and that it was registered as a seal device without colours in 1584. The beaver and waves were an obvious interpretation of the old form of the name ‘Beverlac’.

Beverley Arms
Beverley Arms

The official blazon recorded at the College of Arms is

Argent three Bars wavy and a chief Azure thereon a Castor Beaver regardant biting at the fur Or

Castor is the scientific name for the beaver. Regardant indicates an animal with its head turned backward, as if looking over its shoulder.

I look forward to the Market Cross being restored and becoming, once again, the focal point in Saturday Market, Beverley. Next year (2014) will be its 300th anniversary.

1 Sir Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave Yorkshire: York and the East Riding Yale University Press. 1995. 280.
2 Possibly a symbolical reference to the Hotham / Warton service to the Crown.4
3 British Listed Buildings.
4 K.A. MacMahon. ‘The Building of the Beverley Market Cross’ in Transactions of The Georgian Society for East Yorkshire. 1952-1953. 80-98.

I am particularly grateful to Professor John Wilton-Ely, who has been of enormous assistance. I would also like to thanks Andy Marshall who sent me a snap shot of the Market Cross.

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Comments (6)

Don OvendenNo Gravatar » 19. Aug, 2015

Allcvery fascinating. I have a burning question for you. Do you know the two brass plates in the pavements near the market square with a thimble design embossed on them? They are on each side of the road. I wondered if you might know the origin of these and why they were installed there. I cannot find any reference to these anywhere. I hope you can clarify this for me.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 19. Aug, 2015

Thanks Don. I am afraid that I have no idea what these are. Have you tried asking the local tourist information centre?

PETER OSBORNENo Gravatar » 06. Apr, 2019

Patrick, I like your beautifully clear and correct explanations of heraldic language. We were in Beverley recently and my own rather amateur blazon was “Barry wavy argent and azure, on a chief of the last, a bever or.” The Market Cross is looking very good, I always think the Chough is good for heraldry because the proper bill and legs are a strong red, “armed and legged gules?” Best wishes, Peter Osborne 06.04.19

PatrickNo Gravatar » 06. Apr, 2019

Many thanks Peter. You may well be right. Anyway, the finished result is a major improvement.

Peter Lee FRCSNo Gravatar » 16. Jun, 2019

Most helpful and informative data on Beverley Market Cross
May i have your permiision to use some of your facts in a book I am preparing about Beverley ? Full acknowledgement will of course be made The book will be for charity Than uou Peter leeT

PatrickNo Gravatar » 17. Jun, 2019

Yes, of course. Please do. Thank you for asking.