A medieval market cross, first mentioned around 1410, once stood here.
Sited on Newgate Street near the junction with Low Friar Street (opposite) for almost 400 years, it marked the main entrance into a host of markets including the Bigg Market, Poultry Market, Groat Market, Wool Market, Iron Market and the Flesh Market. Many of these market names are still in use today as street names within the city centre.
The ‘White Cross’ has taken on at least five different appearances. Originally a simple market cross, it also appeared as a pillar & dial, a cistern for the ’New Water’ and a stone pillar.
In 1783 it was demolished and rebuilt to the design shown here by David Stephenson, a local architect, who also designed the Theatre Royal in Mosley Street. It had a pretty little spire, with a good clock, and was ornamented on the four sides with the arms of the Mayor, Magistrate and Sheriff.
In 1808 it was dismantled and rebuilt at the North End of the Flesh Market on the current site of Grey Street.
On 22nd August 1701, a famous incident between Ferdinando Forster MP for Northumberland and John Fenwick of Rock, coal owner, took place at the White Cross.
Whilst attending a ‘Grand Jury’ at the Black Horse Inn, near the crossroads of Clayton Street and Newgate Street, the two men argued about family matters. Fenwick challenged Forster and as they went out stabbed Forster from behind.
Fenwick escaped but was caught within a week, tried and executed by hanging from the white thorn tree that grew closet to the White Cross on 25th September 1701.