Wymondham Market Cross was built between 1617 and 1618, replacing the previous structure which had been destroyed by the great fire of Wymondham in 1615.
There’s a staircase that allows access to the top of the building. During medieval times, this would have been the site of the market, where some punishments took place and official announcements were made.
There’s not much decoration to the structure, but the market cross has become one of the symbols of the town. During the nineteenth century, the town’s subscription reading room was located here. The Thetford & Watton Times reported in 1899 that the reading rooms were under-funded and that the entire structure was in a “somewhat dilapidated condition”.
H. Rider Haggard, the Norfolk born author, presided at a fund-raiser in 1899 to help finance the repairs. At a speech at the event, he explained how markets were often originally held inside a church, but they could be loud and disrupting so they tended to be moved to a more public area which would be marked by a market cross. He added that if there was a proclamation of a new Monarch, a felon to be executed, a martyr to be called to sacrifice his life for God or a pageant to take place, then it would occur at the market cross.
Talking about the Kett brothers who led Kett’s Rebellion, with one being hanged at Wymondham Abbey, he noted that “in those days they would be called rebels and were hanged in chains, nowadays they would be called moderate liberals”. With reference to the reading rooms that were in the market cross, Haggard noted that 84% of the books taken out of the Norwich Free Library were fiction and he considered this a very good thing. He added that free libraries provided books which were good, honest works which amused and informed readers.
The market cross in 1950.