Newtownards Market Cross

Map Reference: J492741 (3492, 3741)

Newtownards Market Cross seems to have been built in 1636. It is an octagonal building with a tall conical roof and recesses with shell-like tops at the lowest storey.

When it was first built it was a single-storey building with a flat roof surrounded by a balustrade. It was surmounted by a tall pillar, about 6m high. This was topped by a stone lion. In this respect it was similar to some of the Mercat crosses which still exist in Scotland. Ornamental spouts with grotesque or animal heads allowed rainwater to drain from the roof.

Each panel of the balustrade was carved with arms or other fancy motifs. In 1649, after the execution of Charles I, the Royalists of the town proclaimed Charles II as king and there were great celebrations, including claret being poured from the spouts. The room at the base of the cross was used as a watch-house for the town and as a prison for the drunk and disorderly. In its original form the building probably functioned as a market paying stand from which the market controller could observe the proceedings. A 17th century market house existed close by but all traces of this are now gone. The structure received its present conical roof sometime before the Ordnance Survey of the 1830s.

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