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Hidden link to Carlisle's rich Roman past revealed - or is it?

Another possible remnant of the Romans may have been uncovered in Carlisle.

Carlisle Market Cross photo
David Kay at the uncovered Market Cross

Sides of the plinth surrounding the Market Cross in the city centre were this week removed as part of restoration work

And what has been exposed has raised questions about the historical importance of what has been inside it for hundreds of years.

The plinth of the landmark, in front of the Old Town Hall, is basically a hollow stone box surrounding a stone column. But that stone column may have some historical significance.

The more modern cross, built in 1682, was created on the site of an older cross, which some think might date back to the Romans.

Now, as stone masons, building experts and historians have been able to take a closer look at the older column inside, questions have been raised about how old it actually is.

David Kay, building and facilities manager with Carlisle City Council, believes it is possible that the stone inside is historically important.

It is likely that those who built the “new” cross may have thought it significant because it seems the stone may have made building the replacement more difficult.

Rather than taking the simple option of building a solid base to mount the stone column on to, they have built it using a hollow stone box.

The chance to see what lies inside the Market Cross has come as work takes place to stabilise the structure, which has a lion on its top.

Mr Kay said: “I have been looking forward to seeing this for a while.

“I was hoping there would be some sort of markings that would give us a clue as to how old it was, but there aren’t.

“There has been a cross on this site since Roman times. It is recorded that this one was built on the site of the previous market cross.

“My thought is that the cross in the middle is the spine of the original cross and that they have built around this and on top of it.”

Historians have, however, been unable to confirm whether the stone inside the plinth could date back to Roman times after viewing it this week.

“They don’t seem convinced that this is the original market cross. There are no markings on it to suggest that it is,” Mr Kay added.

It may be years again before those interested can get such a close inspection of the inside of the plinth.

Carlisle Market Cross – also historically known as Caril Cross – is a grade one listed structure.

The lion on top of it is holding a scroll with the city arms on it.

Below it, are four sundials with ball and spear finials at its corners. It was first listed in 1949.

Each of the sundial faces has incised Roman numerals and painted metal gnomons.

Scaffolding and boarding has surrounded the Market Cross since stonemasonry specialists Askins and Little started work there late last month.

Work on the structure is being paid for by Carlisle City Council and English Heritage.

Despite the work taking place, the monument is not structurally insecure. The erection of the scaffolding is standard practice.

The statue, which is famous worldwide, was completely renovated and repainted in 2009.

Serious cracks were found in it and stonemasons and structural experts were drafted in to restore the monument to its former glory.

Work on the cross has been sanctioned by English Heritage.

Have your say

Curious enough I have considered it might be the remains of the last Dalek having been destroyed after they exterminated the population in the year 1050. The records of our city forefathers and many charters seemingly were destroyed (by a fire) a hundred or so, years later, so maybe when the doc comes back with his tardis we'll find out what it was for. Despite the questioning no one has since concluded what the stone box was for, obviously not a draft version of the apple iPad.

However three italian cherries for first one to respond on what seems no particular interest to many in regard comments with the last attempt by myself in February. Nice to see the restored Carlisle Market Cross with hopefully a very longterm union (England and Scotland) crown.

Be just and Fear Not .... Everyones writing is not perfect but at least many a time the N&S responds with the merit of contributing
many a comment within the website's terms. I'll sit the night in the stocks awaiting rotten tomatoes from the present vegs (or fruit) in the Greenmarket but you should beware it was'nt a Roman leader Hadrian that could not pronounce his 'h's but a prime minister that saved the nation from many a book being burned and much worse. Maggie the nations PM had speech speaking problems. I don't look for faults in others but just happy they contribute to the community I live.

Captain Bligh said our language was alike the Tahitan language in that it was very complex and devious as our own. I'd rather have the talented NUT FRH, or RVI than CIC. Their again BUT General might be same as all highly Qualified staff in NHS. The expensive new Carlisle police station at Durranhill is now further away from the town and the scotch dyke border and last time I went they had trouble locating a biro.

Posted by Roy on 23 March 2012 at 20:01

roy.....what is it (in plain english please)that you are actually trying to say.....are you worried about the black death fear not you have the talented staff at cic to assist...if its maurauding scots we have an able police the carlisle motto says "be just and fear not"

Posted by curious on 23 March 2012 at 16:30

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