The cross was commissioned in 1884 by Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, at the time Minister for Foreign Affairs and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
He was inspired to erect it after hearing the story of a massive oak tree felled within living memory and known as the Augustine Oak, one of a group of trees fringing a field which he owned.
According to local legend, under this oak in AD 597 the first meeting was held between King Æthelberht and the monk Augustine, newly arrived from Rome. Augustine had recently landed on the Isle of Thanet, having been sent by Pope Gregory to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity and thereby re-establish the faith in a country in which it had faded with the fall of the Roman Empire. Not far to the south-east was the stream in which, the legend tells us, Augustine baptised his first convert and which subsequently became known as St Augustine’s Well. Tradition holds that Æhelberht was converted to Christianity and Augustine baptised him on Whit Sunday in AD 597. On Christmas Day of that year, according to a papal letter of AD 598, more than 10,000 baptisms were carried out.