Object: An open, gazebo-like structure of Caen limestone, constructed in the style of the perpendicular Gothic. Eight buttressed piers, arranged octagonally around a massy central column, together frame eight open doorways enclosing a shadowed, much-worn central portico; a stone bench rings the central column. Springing from each pier is a flying buttress, which in turn supports the central pillar, now itself become octagonal; the central pillar, rising above the buttresses, affords further niches for statuary. This pillar is topped by a conical spire.
The present-day structure displays the marks of numerous reconfigurations. Four of its faces, addressing each of the four streets which meet at the cross, were fitted with large clocks. Though much of the statuary is no longer present, the current building is much encumbered with armorial shields, escutcheons, banners, and other significant markers, most of which mark the monument’s many remodelings.
The Chichester Cross was built in 1501 at the sole expense of Edward Story, Bishop of Chichester Cathedral, in order to provide free shelter for the sale of agricultural goods. Story further supplied an endowment for its maintenance. The Cross remains in situ, marking the formal center of Chichester; the four streets which emerge from the Cross bear the names of the cardinal compass points.
Top, Left: Crucis ichnographia. / ped…..28 / scala pedum.
Top, Right: Summa pars crucis, prout anno 1724 instaurata fuit, in muliebrium figurarum locum horologio suffecto.
Bottom: CRUX CICESTRIӔ, / Extructa ab Edwardo Story, qui ad Episcopatum Cicestriensem anno 1475, regnante EDWARDO IV, evectus est; cujus insignia regiis immixta, cruciq[ue] insculpta esse dicuntur. Collapso temporis injuriâ fastigio, post CAROLI II. reditum reparata est, aeneo CAROLI I. capite in arculo, ubi olim fuerat Statua, posito. Prima hujusce Crucis delineatio anno 1715 facta est; secunda anno 1724, formam ejus horologio et campana nundinali ornatae, prout hodie manet, exprimens; postrema anno 1743. Sumptibus Soc. Antiq. Lond. ӕri incisa hic exhibetur prima.
Top Left: Plan of the cross / 28 feet / scale of feet.
Top Right: The uppermost part of the cross as it was redone in the year 1724, after the statues of women were replaced by clocks.
Bottom: The Chichester Cross, / Built by Edward Story, who, during the reign of King Edward IV, was elevated to the bishopric of Chichester in the year 1475; his insignia are said to have been mixed with the King’s and to have been engraved on the cross. After the roof collapsed, weakened by the passage of time, it [the cross] was repaired after the restoration of Charles II, and a bronze bust of Charles I was placed in a niche where there once had been a statue. The first drawing of this Cross (i.e. the top, left image) was made in the year 1715; the second (i.e. the top, right image) [was made] in the year 1724 and shows how it looks adorned with a clock and a market bell tower, as it still looks today; the last (i.e. the main image) [was made] in the year 1743. This drawing, engraved in copper at the expense of the Society of Antiquaries, is shown here for the first time.
Commentary by Sean Silver: The minutes of the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) note that on 12 November 1741, “[i]t was Balloted to give Mr Menagoest four Guineas for his Curious Draught of Chichester Cross” (quoted in Alexander 2008, 368). Ménageot was a Paris-trained painter who struggled for fifteen years to make ends meet in London. Early in 1741, Ménageot arrived in England under the protection of William Draper (1709-1759). It is probable that Draper introduced Ménageot to the Society, but it is certain that he caused Ménageot to collect drawings of views and principal monuments from London and its environs to the South (Ménageot 1741). Following Draper’s advice, Ménageot completed a journey from London to the Isle of Wight during the travelling seasons of 1741; among the images he recorded were sketches of Portsmouth and of Carisbrooke Castle (Willk-Brocard 1998, 43). Also in this group was a drawing of Chichester Cross, sold to the SAL and engraved on copperplate by George Vertue. Vertue’s engraving was published as a loose sheet in 1743 and republished in Vetusta Monumenta as Plate 1.64.
In 1747, the same year that Vetusta Monumenta first appeared as a bound volume, Vertue visited the Cross in person. This was at the behest of Charles Lennox, the second Duke of Richmond (1701-1750) and one-time mayor of Chichester, who had just overseen a major refurbishment and rebuilding of the Cross. Vertue completed a series of sketches in partnership with the draughtsman William Ride, the surveyor of Richmond’s house and grounds (Vertue 1747). Vertue subsequently engraved these sketches. His sketches are held by the Lewis Walpole Library (Folio 49 3581, 47 and 49-52), and a copy of Vertue’s second, much embellished engraving is at the Royal Academy (17/1046).
It is easy to see what attracted members of the SAL to the Chichester Cross. Early English antiquaries were largely concerned with the interpretation of Gothic artifacts (Sweet 2004). This interest is what caused William Draper—grandson from his mother’s side to the diarist John Evelyn (1620-1706), and a charter member of the SAL—to dispatch Augustin Ménageot to Sussex for the purpose of gathering representations of local monuments. Draper’s desire was to collect, and then to publish, representations of Gothic antiquities, which was in turn part of a more general antiquarian project in constructing a native, English history (Draper 1744; Ménageot 1741).
Despite its gestures towards realism, this engraving shows the Cross as it possibly never existed—not only because there might never have been a boy spinning a top, but moreover because the sketches of statuary appear to be Ménageot and Vertue’s best guesses of what the Cross might have looked like prior to its reimagination. The image here shows none of the damage from Parliamentary troops, under the command of William Waller, who on Innocents’ Day 1642 entered Chichester after a siege, defacing Cross and cathedral in an enthusiastic burst of iconoclasm (“Chichester Cathedral” 1843, 427). Nor does it capture what, to later eyes, was the most valuable single part of the Cross, the marble bust of Charles I by Herbert Le Seuer, dated 1631. In some senses, then, Vertue’s engraving relays an idea of the Cross as it might have appeared to antiquarian eyes, registering its passage through history even while remaining undiminished.
Early antiquarian historiography lent itself particularly well to objects which made their history palpable. The Chichester Cross was built at the turn of the sixteenth century by Bishop Edward Story (d. 1504), who left a further legacy for its maintenance. The Cross was multiply defaced during the first English Civil War, but was repaired after the Restoration; a bust of Charles I, installed by the Charles II to commemorate the Monarchist leanings of the city where it stood, appears on its East front. In 1724, Lady Farrington (widow of Sir Richard Farrington, bart) placed three clocks on the Cross, and so on. This can all be known because the Cross is its own monument, or, at least, a monument of its own coming-into-being. A series of prominent engravings, armorial bearings, and icons commemorate the people who caused the Cross to be built and maintained. In what might be called the graffiti of the wealthy, it bears a record of its patrons prominently upon itself (see also Falzman 1935 and Foster 2001).
The image of the Cross composed by William Ride and George Vertue in 1747 yet more potently emphasizes the wealth that built and maintained the monument. Sometime between 1741 (when Ménageot executed his series of drawings) and 1747 (when the it was again drawn and engraved), the Cross received a general cleaning up, with the three clocks bespoke by Lady Farrington replaced by four new ones. This redundant re-clocking, along with the seemingly superfluous re-engraving, was effected in partnership by Ride, who oversaw the restoration, and Vertue, who handled the engraving, but the work was ordered by Charles Lennox, second Duke of Richmond: Chichester’s one-time mayor and an ardent political loyalist (Colvin 1995, Allen 2019). The Duke of Richmond was also, in Vertue’s words, “a Member of several Societys,” including the Royal Society and the SAL (“Vertue’s Note Book” 1937-38, 142). It was at Richmond’s request that Vertue made a personal trip to Chichester, working with Ride, the surveyor of the Duke’s house and grounds, to produce a series of views of the refurbished cross. These Vertue subsequently gathered in a copperplate triptych, with the Cross’s own inscriptions reproduced at larger scale to record the identity of the patron. Unlike the first engraving, which offers an antiquarian monument for antiquarian eyes—only gathering up its patrons as if by accident—this second engraving makes much of the Cross as an icon of local and monarchical power. It gestures explicitly and fulsomely to Richmond in his capacity as agent of the State, once in registering the renewal of the Cross, and again in its dedication.
It is one thing to approach the Cross as an antiquarian artifact, which is partly how the Cross appears in Vetusta Monumenta. It is something else altogether to attach the Cross to a particular person, at a particular moment in history—which is precisely the effort Richmond made in 1747, or, we might say, hired Ride and Vertue to make. During the very years that the Cross was redundantly engraved, Richmond was caught up in a difficult struggle that pitted State power against the claims of the local population. These years were difficult ones for Sussex—and Richmond’s decision to have the Cross refurbished and engraved, possibly timed to coincide with the 1747 appearance of Vetusta Monumenta as a bound volume, are best read against this historical and economic situation. The years from 1745-1750 were politically explosive. The Jacobites were actively attempting to reinstall the Pretender to the Throne, and Richmond was among the men who took up arms to resist them. But Richmond did more than this. In his home region of Sussex, including his home city of Chichester, he helmed a two-year program to eliminate the cross-Channel smuggling of goods such as salt, sugar, tea, and tobacco—what he called, “checking that audacious spirit [of smuggling] which now daily gains ground” (1749, 5). Holding a series of irregular criminal trials in Chichester, he ultimately oversaw the deaths of forty-five men, thirty-five of whom were convicted or accused of illegal traffic in commodity goods. The remaining ten died in jail, awaiting trial for related charges.
The effectiveness of the campaign is doubtful. Horace Walpole (1717-1797) in 1752 for instance remarked that Sussex remained overrun with smugglers and excise-men, in seemingly perpetual conflict over the cross-channel trade (Walpole 1752, 137; McLynn 1989, 187-89). Yet its political cost was clear. Richmond pitched himself as a figure of order, regularity, and security. He justified the violence of his policing program by claiming that smugglers were transmitting cross-channel intelligence to the Jacobites; he also pointed to the violence endemic to the trade. But not all people agreed. Smuggling was an essential part of coastal economies like that of Chichester, a point raised by Michael Kwass in his study of the folk-hero Louis Mandrin (Kwass 2014). Though the illicit trade in regulated goods sometimes erupted in violence, it also constituted a much more ubiquitous, homely part of the fabric of popular rural life (Winslow 1976; Wood 2014). This is not only because unregulated goods were cheaper; more than this, their exchange was central to the livelihoods of a surprisingly broad demographic of men, women, children, pensioners, the elderly, and so on, all engaging differently in the circulation and distribution of unregulated goods.
Details of Richmond’s own reports point to the tight-knit circles of exchange that depended upon illicit trade; one account of a break-in to a customs house notes how the thieves freely distributed bags of tea to those they met. Even the trials against the smuggling trade regularly depended upon the open knowledge of smugglers’ identities in local communities. In short, smugglers were often local heroes, even while they were enemies of the State. Walter Gale, a Sussex schoolmaster, notes in his diary that captured smugglers were regularly attended by “a company of foot guards”; this was to “prevent all chances of rescue, so thoroughly were the feelings of great numbers of the people enlisted on the side of the smugglers” ( 1857, 194-95).
Richmond launched a publicity campaign to defend his position, culminating in a pamphlet entitled The Genuine History of the Inhuman and Unparalleled Murders of Mr William Galley, A Custom-House Officer (see also Winslow 1976). Richmond’s narrative ends with descriptions of the irregular trials of seven men at Chichester, who were convicted and hanged in chains in different parts of Sussex. Relying largely on trial testimony, it describes the events in great detail, including seven plates of “barbarous cruelties” that linger on violence and torture done to a customs official and excise man. It is unclear what could have prompted this level of concerted, protracted violence, except as a reaction against the representatives of government regulation; “we have an instance,” Richmond himself remarks, “of two men suffering the most cruel torments… for no other crime but a duty to serve their king and country” (1749, 3). But it is also worth noting the puzzlement of historians over the protracted level of violence instigated by Richmond, both before and after the attack on the Poole Customs House. This can only be explained, writes Frank McLynn, as a defense of the legitimacy of the British State against foreign and domestic threats, for which the customs and excise system served as a crucial icon and institution. By this account, Richmond experienced smuggling as a variety of terrorism—not least because a French Jacobite ultimately claimed responsibility for the Poole attack (McLynn 1989, 187-89).
The seven plates of Richmond’s Genuine History (especially the seventh, which visualizes the attack on the Poole Customs House), might therefore meaningfully be read as companion pieces to Ménageot’s sketch and to the plate engraved by Vertue, and to the subsequent, elaborated and elaborately adorned second engraving of the same object. For if the destruction of the customs house and the violence against its representatives captures one episode in the complex of relationships between government agencies and the poor, if, indeed, it figures or stands for the redistribution of goods like tea from a customs house to a different economy of circulation, so the Market Cross, standing at the central crossroads of the city and the center of the space for trade among small merchants, represents ongoing efforts to legitimate regulated trade at the expense of other forms.
The Cross marks out a space for the well-regulated, free trade of a free market; it defines a space dedicated for a certain kind of trade. This is how the Cross had been imagined, and how it functioned in day-to-day life. This is perhaps why Ménageot and Vertue (in the first iteration) thought to stage someone selling vegetables there. But it was always also an attempt to exert a beneficent form of control, that the poor might use the space without a toll, provided they stood within its confines, or, in the language of Edward Story’s bequest, “under the cross,” which (the caption reminds us) is mixed with the King’s arms (Foster 2001). In this sense, the gift all along signaled a relationship between power and the marketplace; it concretized a relationship between the micro-economics of exchange and the abstract figures of authority, in which exchange takes place under the sign of icons and representatives of Church and State. It represents a certain kind of exchange, of state-directed marketplaces, rather than familial and gift-based networks. Read this way, the inscriptions which encrust its surface, and the engravings which repeat them, record the transmission of forms of legitimacy, the icons and figures of the political contract, especially where those figures bring the State’s heavy hand to bear on commodity exchange.
Alexander, David. 2008. “George Vertue as Engraver.” The Volume of the Walpole Society 70: 207-517.
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