The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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St Peter’s Churchyard Cross, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Cross in the churchyard of St Peter’s Minster, Stoke-on-Trent. Front.

Saxon Cross, Stoke-on- Trent.

NGR: SJ 87931 45213. In the grassy graveyard of St Peter’s Minster on Glebe Street, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, are the remains of a Mercian cross-shaft on a stepped base, dating from the 10th century AD, although some historians think it might date from the 8th-9th century? The actual name and dedication of the Minster church is St Peter’s Ad Vincular (St Peter in Chains). There is visible decoration on the shaft of this preaching cross although it is now rather worn and weather-beaten, and there are cracks from previous damage. It is a Saxon cross, that is a certainty, the area itself being part of the Old Saxon Kingdom of Mercia; and the first church here (and indeed the cross) were of wood. This 7th Century church was probably associated with St Chad, bishop of Lichfield. The building that is now the minster was built in the 19th Century. The site can be reached from the centre of Stoke. Head west onto Glebe Street and a few hundred yards south of the town hall is St Peter’s Minster and its large graveyard; the cross stands on a stepped base behind modern iron railings.

Mercian cross-shaft in St Peter’s churchyard, Stoke. Front face.

The cross-shaft, without its cross-head if it ever had one, stands 4 feet high (1.3m) in a socketed stone upon a base of two chunky steps, which are probably of a 19th Century date, though the cross itself is probably 10th Century or a few hundred years before that. The monument is set within a paved surround. It is said to stand on, or near, the site of a wooden cross from which St Chad is said to have preached in the 7th Century. Sadly the shaft is quite worn with the carvings on one side being difficult to make out, but the front face has long vine scrolls and interlacing and, on the sides there looks to be some key-patterning, while the reverse side has a lot of knotwork and interlacing and, a series of holes that might have been done in recent times? The break across the middle of the shaft can clearly be seen but this does not detract from its great antiquity; the monument being carefully restored. At the base an inscription reads: ‘This fragment of a pre-Norman cross identified by Chas Lynam F.S.A. was re-erected near to its original position in the 25th year of the reign of H.M. King George V by P.W.L. Adams F.S.A.’ The cross-shaft is a Grade II listed monument.

There is a story or tale coming from St Peter’s Church that says the cross-shaft was discovered in 1876 by a gravedigger who spotted it being used as a door lintel inside the old church, which was being demolished to make way for a newer church building. During its recovery the shaft broke in two so it was placed in storage, but in 1935 it was formally identified by Mr Charles Lynam who had it restored and re-erected in the churchyard.

Doug Pickford (1994) tells us more about the site, saying: “At Stoke itself, meaning a fortified stockade, and the collective name so often (wrongly) given to this area there is the Church of St Peter and nearby is the base and trunk of an ancient preaching cross. Was this cross, I wonder, a stone monolith before it was used for preaching. Perhaps in earlier times it was used for praying to, not preaching from. Stoke was most probably a fortified place holding out from the old Britons who took refuge in the high Staffordshire moorlands.”

The very large Minster churchyard also has some re-erected stone arches from an earlier church; and amongst the many in-teresting graves there is the one of Josiah Wedgwood of Burslem and Etruria (1730-1795) the famous master potter; another of Josiah Spode of Stoke-on-Trent (1733-1797) who was also a famous pottery manufacturer, and the grave of Charles Bourne (1775-1836) the pottery manufacturer of Fenton. There is also a commemorative ceramic (mosaic) seat in the churchyard, which was installed in 2000.

Mercian cross at Stoke- on-Trent (reverse side).

The earliest origins of Stoke-upon-Trent go back to at least 800 AD, but probably further back to the 7th Century. It would seem the Saxon name was Stoiche or Stoche – a stockade, but there was no mention of the Church of Stoke in Domesday, though there was a brief mention of it in ‘The description of Caverswall’. The name and its probable meaning have been considered to be: ‘the place of the church’, ‘place by or next to a church’, or ‘settlement beside a church’; the latter name being the most likely. In St Peter’s Minster can be seen a baptismal font that was in use as a garden ornament. It is thought to be of Saxon origins. In 1932 it was restored and put back into use in the church. Also in St Peter’s there are a number of monuments and marble memorial tablets to the ‘great-and-the-good’ of Stoke-on-Trent’s pottery manufacturing history, which brought about, and shaped the Industrial Revolution in the Potteries of North Staffordshire.

Adrian Room (1993) adds more, saying: “This well-known city has a basic name derived from the Old English stoc (place), as considered for STOKE-BY- NAYLAND. It is more likely that the meaning here is ‘dependent settlement’, as there is no evi-dence for the latter sense. The addition of the river name distinguishes this Stoke from the hundreds of others. The name of this city, perhaps the best known example, was recorded as Stoche in the Domesday Book.” 

The PastScape monument no is: 75813.

Sources & References:-

Pickford, Doug, Staffordshire — Its Magic & Mystery, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1994.

Room, Adrian, Dictionary Of Place-Names In The British Isles, Blitz Editions (Bookmart Limited), Enderby, Leicester, 1993.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoke_Minster

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/st-peters-cross/

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/cross-fragment-in-st-peters-churchyard-6467

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=75813

http://www.thepotteries.org/listed/124a.html

History & Heritage

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 


St Martin’s Cross, Island of Iona, Argyll and Bute, Western Scotland

St Martin’s High Cross.*

OS Grid Reference: NM 28632 24504. At the western side of the Abbey Church on the Island of Iona, Argyll and Bute, Western Scotland, stands the richly sculptured ‘St Martin’s High Cross’, which is similar to some of the Irish high crosses. It is thought to date from the beginning of the 9th or the late 8th century AD, although some think it to be much earlier? This tall granite cross is probably the best preserved Celtic religious monument in the British Isles, displaying scenes from the Bible. It was set up on the island in dedication to the French saint, Martin of Tours, who was much venerated in the so-called Dark Ages, especially in Scotland, Wales and the far west of England, when St Columba (521-597) sailed over from Ireland to set up his celebrated monastery here on this Scottish island in 563 AD. The college quickly became a renowned centre of early monasticism and learning and, also a ‘Cradle of Celtic Christianity’. The Island can be reached by ferry firstly from Oban to Mull, and then a smaller ferry from Fiannphort, taking you across the narrow Sound of Iona, to the little village of Baile Mòr on the eastern side of the island.

Old Postcard: St Martin & St John’s High Crosses, Iona, Scotland.

St Martin’s High Cross on Iona stands over 14 feet high and, on its stepped base, well over 16 feet, and is made of red granite. It is very similar in sculptural design to some of the Irish high crosses, with its typical ring-head. One of its faces has scenes from the Bible, while the opposite face has Celtic-style decoration and bosses; but it is a beautifully and richly carved monument, which is thought to date from around 800 AD although some think it may actually date from the 6th Century – at which time it would have been set-up and dedicated to St Martin of Tours (320-401). So, we might ask: did St Columba have a hand in the setting up of the cross? There is a replica of the 8th or 10th Century St John’s Cross, the original is in the abbey museum (along with St Matthew’s Cross) and has a serpent with boss and spirals. St John the Evangelist was the apostle of Christ. There is also MacLean’s Cross though this is more recent, still, and dates from the 15th Century; it is named after a chief of the clan MacLean.

The Rough Guide (2000) tells us that: “Beside the road stands the most impressive of Iona’s Celtic high crosses, the eighth-century St Martin’s Cross, smothered with figural scenes – the Virgin and Child at the centre, Daniel in the lion’s den, Abraham sacrificing Isaac and David with musicians in the shaft below. The reverse side features Pictish serpent-and-boss decoration.”

The Canmore website tells us much more about St Martin’s Cross, saying: “This cross, whose name was recorded by Lhuyd in 1699, stands in a granite base…..21m W of the Abbey Church. It is carved from a single block of epidiorite, probably from the Argyll mainland, and is 4.3m in visible height by 1.19m in span. The diameter of the pierced ring is 1.09m and that of the armpits 0.24m. In the ends of the arms are vertical slots, open at the top, which may have housed ornamental panels rather than extensions for the arms. The angles bear roll-mouldings which on the W face extended below the lowest panel to flank an inscription, now indecipherable. The shaft of the E face bears three roundels of snake-and-boss ornament, a coarser variant of that in the same position on St John’s Cross. In the top of the shaft are seven interlaced bosses, each producing two snakes, and the largest of these is also one of the group of five high-relief bosses in the cross-head. That at the centre is set in a ring of nine small bosses linked by spirals, and in the side- arms each boss produces three snakes, while that in the top arm lies between two pairs of rampant leonine beasts. The E face of the ring bears knitted interlace.

Canmore also adds: “On the W face the lowest panels bears six bosses with intertwined serpents, followed by four rows of figure-scenes on an undivided field. (i) Two pairs of figures too simplified for indentication. (ii) A harper, seated with outstretched legs as on St Oran’s Cross and facing a kneeling man with a (?triple) pipe; a rectangle between them may represent a drum or a book symbolizing David’s authorship of the psalms. (iii) Abraham’s sacrifice, with a central figure holding a sword across one shoulder and grasping the hair of Isaac, whose arms are extended above a rectangular altar; the small winged figure of the angel stands at the left. (iv) The seated figure of Daniel between two rearing lions, with a lump which may be the head of another lion to the right. This theme may continue in the side-arms, where two passant leonine beasts flank a central roundel with the seated Virgin and Child between four small angels, the upper ones forming a canopy. The top arm bears three pairs of back-to-back leonine beasts with intertwined tails.” I Fisher 2001. See the Canmore website, below. The Canmore ID number is:- 21653. 

Derek Bryce (1989) says of St Martin’s Cross: “In Scotland, on the Isle of Iona, there is a cross known as St. Martin’s. Its front is decorated in a similar way to the Irish high crosses, with biblical scenes on the shaft, and the very centre of the cross has a representation of the Virgin and Child. The ornamentation on the back is, however, purely decorative. This cross stands on a square, stepped base.”

Joyce Miller (2000) adds some interesting info on Iona Abbey and St Columba: “Situated on the beautiful and peaceful island of Iona, this is where St Columba came to found a monastic community. He converted the Picts of mainland Scotland, ruled by Brude, to Christianity. Columba was born in Donegal in 521 and died in 597, and the Columba’s shrine, within the Abbey buildings, dates from the 9th century.

“The abbey was abandoned after raids by the Vikings but was re-established by Queen Margaret, wife of Malcolm Can-more, in the 11th century. Margaret is one of the few native saints still recognized by the present Roman Catholic church. The island was a major place of pilgrimage in medieval times, and there was a pilgrim’s route, marked by standing stones, across Mull.”

Miller goes on to say that: Two crosses – St Martin’s Cross and St John’s Cross – the latter a replica: the original is recon-structed and displayed in the Infirmary Museum – stand just outside the church. An extensive collection of sculptured stones and crosses, one of the largest collections of early Christian carved stones in Europe are held in the museum. The Black Stones of Iona were kept by St Martin’s Cross, and would reputedly turn black (or turn the oath-taker black) if somebody was lying when taking an oath. The last of the stones was apparently here until the end of 19th century, but has since gone.”

Sources and related websites:-

Bryce, Derek, Symbolism Of The Celtic Cross, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed, Wales, 1989.

Miller, Joyce, Myth and Magic — Scotland’s Ancient Beliefs & Sacred Places, Goblinshead, Musselburgh, Scotland.

The Rough Guide, Scotland, Rob Humphreys, Donald Reid & Paul Tarrant, Rough Guides Ltd., London, 2000.

*Wonders Of The World, (fwd: by Sir Philip Gibbs K. B. E.), Odhams Press Ltd., London, 1930.

https://canmore.org.uk/site/21653/iona-st-martins-cross

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/archives-and-research/publications/publication/?publicationid=e9970fde-2118-4aad-9fec-a58a00a5d049

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iona

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iona_Abbey

https://orthodoxwiki.org/Iona

http://www.colmcille.org/iona/7-01

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/earlyphotos/s/006sta10370cc35u00011000.html

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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Stump Cross, Near Mereclough, Lancashire

Stump Cross as seen from the opposite side of the Long Causeway.

OS Grid Reference: SD 8780 3003. At the side of the Long Causeway, near Mereclough, Lanca-shire, is a standing stone that is locally called ‘Stump Cross’. It is a very weather-beaten stump of a stone which has the name STUMP CROSS carved onto it and also an incised cross. The thinking is that it was originally a Bronze-Age standing stone that had stood on the moors, or it had came from a nearby stone circle? In more recent times, however, it seems to have been chopped down to its current height for it to become a marker stone or guide post, and then brought in to use as a wayside cross; there are other crosses close to the Long Causeway, which is a medieval trackway linking the towns of Burnley, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. The stone is best reached from the A646 (Todmorden Road). Turn right up to Over Town and Mereclough; then turn right again at the pub and go up hill onto the Long Causeway. Stump Cross is about 1 mile along here at the left side of the road, just before Stone Jug Farm. There is a rough parking place at the opposite side of the road, but the road can be very busy – so please take great care if photographing the stone.

Stump Cross, near Mereclough, Lancashire.

Today ‘Stump Cross’ cuts a lonely figure standing bravely beside The Long Causeway, a wind-swept moorland route between Burnley, Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge, linking Lancashire with west Yorkshire. It is a very worn and weather-beaten stump of a stone but still of local historical interest as a guide post and wayside cross. The words ‘STUMP CROSS’ now quite difficult to make out at the bottom of the stone and the incised cross near the top even more difficult still. It has obviously suffered from being chopped off at the top but this has, in a way, made it into a more shapely little standing stone. And if it was originally a prehistoric standing stone did it come from the moors around here? Did it perhaps stand upon nearby Mosley Height and come from a Bronze Age stone circle there? Or did it come from somewhere else? The Long Causeway was a medieval trackway and, later a packhorse route, though it probably dates from further back into pre-history. There are, or were, several other wayside crosses along, or close to, the Causeway, three such being Robin Cross, Maiden Cross and Mount Cross. Other wayside crosses on or near the Long Causeway have now, sadly, been ‘Lost to Time’.

John Billingsley (2011) tells us that: “In the mediaeval period, the Long Causeway may have also been known, rather literally, as the High Street, and was known as a key conduit in local travel networks. It was then that it picked up its accoutrement of crosses along its length – from west to east, we know of the following named crosses on or near its route: Stump Cross, located on a rise where the road bends……..; Robin Cross (1968 6″, SD8809 2975) which gave its name to Robin Cross Hall and Farm; Maiden Cross, now no more than a scratched inscription on a wall-stone to one side of the wind-farm, 35-40 yards from the site of the original (1968 6″ SD8940 2878) which stood just off the road; Dukes Cross, at a point between Maiden Cross and Stiperden Cross (1968 6″ SD8973 2855), Stiperden Cross, at the junction of the old and new roads, where the new route swings round in a loop to keep to the contours and avoid the muddy direct route with its stream crossing (and Adam’s Well); and Mount Cross (also known as Idol Cross), some yards below the road on Cross Hill, opposite Mount Farm in Shore.”  

Billingsley (2011) refers in his notes to: “Newell, 1911, p174-182. Stump Cross is of course a description, not a name, and may refer to Robin Cross.”

Sources and related websites:-

Billingsley, John, Hood, Head and Hag, Northern Earth, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, 2011.

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=4155

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/05/08/mount-cross-cornholme-west-yorkshire/

Toggle down for Long Causeway:  http://www.calderdalecompanion.co.uk/l.html#l75

https://stevemoxon.co.uk/robin_hood_name_origin_myth_etymology/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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Irton High Cross, Eskdale, Cumbria

Irton High Cross, Eskdale, Cumbria.

OS Grid Reference: NY 09156 00471. In Irton churchyard (south-side of St Paul’s Church) in Eskdale, Cumbria, stands the tall, slender Irton High Cross, a Viking monument thought to date from the mid 10th century AD, though a few scholars suggested that it is even earlier than that? The cross has some very intricate decoration – some of which looks to be more Celtic than Danish. Its runic inscription having all but faded away, but other than that it is a very fine ancient monument; the cross-head, in particular, being very pleasing to the eye. St Paul’s church itself dates from the Victorian period. To reach this site from Santon (Santon Bridge) follow the lane for a couple of miles south, then southwest towards Holmrook, but turning off to the right before reaching that village and, just after passing the entrance to Aikbank farm. Follow this track (north) to St Paul’s Church and the Irton Cross. The tiny village of Irton is roughly ½ a mile to the east of St Paul’s Church and 3 miles southeast of Gosforth.

Irton High Cross, Eskdale, Cumbria.

The Irton High Cross is a well-preserved, intact, cross standing at almost 10 foot high (3.4 metres) and is made of red sandstone. It is a slender cross that tapers away slightly towards the top where there is a very fine, carved cross-head with central raised bosses. The age of the cross is uncertain, but most scholars think it to be from 950 AD. However, a few scholars and historians have suggested that it looks to be of an earlier date maybe the 8th or 9th century? And some of the carved decoration on its four-sides looks to be similar to Celtic work, rather than Anglian/Danish; Cumbria obviously being close to the Celtic countries of Ireland and Scotland. There is also a Saxon influence. We can see some very intricate interlacing and circular designs with dots (pellets) in long panels on the shaft, and also on the cross-head; the central bosses also having this pellet-work. Two figures are apparently visible as are beasts. Other carvings include: key-patternwork, diamond shapes, scrollwork, spirals and roll-moulding. Originally there was a Runic inscription in the smaller panel but this has now worn away. The sandstone base is perhaps the same age as the cross or later?

Arthur Mee (1961) tells us that: “Not so old as some flints and spear-heads found here, the remarkable churchyard cross of Irton is old enough, for it was probably carved out of the red sandstone 1000 years ago; and for its beauty and preservation it ranks second only to the wonderful cross at Gosforth. Tapering gracefully to a fine head, it is ten feet high, and is richly ornamented. Beyond the fine timber lychgate it has a new companion on the little green, a graceful cross to the Irton men who died for peace.

“The stolid little church was refashioned last century and has a fine tower with an imposing turret above the battlements. Its eight bells must echo far and wide among these hills and vales. The tower archway is screened by attractive wrought iron gates, and the attractive chancel arch has black and marble shafts.”

Robert Harbison (1993) gives some rather comical information re: “Irton Cross, S of  the church, is a very ruddy orange on the E face, better preserved on W. Carpet patterns like those in manuscripts on E, knots on W, protrusive baubles in the centre of the lively misshapen head. A moving presence in this windswept place; there’s an Art Nouveau imitation lower down to SW, with a stone rail behind.”

Harbison goes on to say that “The church is unattractive outside but lovely within. Its scale is wonderful, like a model, and there are many entertaining fittings — a painted iron screen in tower arch, rustic wooden haunches in chancel roof, lots of Victorian banners on the walls and very amusing narrative windows. These include four good late panels by Burne-Jones, of which the oldest is the Tiburtine Sibyl in a lionskin by an altar.”

Maxwell Fraser (1939) says that: “In Irton churchyard is a cross 10 feet high and richly carved, which probably dates from the ninth century.”

The Historic England List Entry Number is: 1012642.

Sources and related websites:-

Fraser, Maxwell, Companion into Lakeland, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1939.

Harbison, Robert, The Shell Guide to English Parish Churches, André Deutsch Limited, London, 1993.

Mee, Arthur, The King’s England — Arthur Mee’s Lake Counties — Cumberland And Westmorland, Hodder And Stoughton Limited, London, 1961.

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1961.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1012642

https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/AngloSaxonSites/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irton_Cross

https://www.visitcumbria.com/crosses/

https://www.photonorth.uk/-/image-library/cumbria/history/anglo-saxon-and-viking-cumbria-photos

http://eskdale.info/irton.html

https://www.eskdale.info/history.html

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2019.


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Churchyard Cross, St Nicholas’ Church, Grosmont, Monmouthshire, Wales

St Nicholas’ church cross.

OS Grid Reference: SO 40475 24302. In St Nicholas’ churchyard (north-side near the door) at Grosmont in Monmouthshire, Wales, there was a medieval preaching cross which had crudely carved depictions of Christ crucified and Mary the Virgin with baby Jesus. It was locally called Jack o’ Kent’s Cross. There was, and still is, some uncertainty about the age of the cross, but the carved section atop the shaft was thought to date from between the 11th to 13th century, whereas the shaft and eight-sided base are more recent, maybe 14 or 15th century? Due to ‘the recent safety concerns’ the carved fragment of the cross-head has had to be placed in the church, leaving the shaft and base out in the churchyard. Apparently the shaft was originally much taller. There may have been an earlier cross-head on top of the cross shaft. The 13th century parish church of St Nicholas at Grosmont looks rather like a small cathedral with its tall 14th century octagonal spire, which is a landmark for many miles around. It is to be found at the southwest side of the village, be-side the B4347 road, a couple of miles south of Kentchurch and about 6 miles to the northeast of Llanfihangel Crucorney.

Carved cross head at St Nicholas’ church, Grosmont.

Today, however, the churchyard cross looks rather forlorn with its chopped down shaft, but it still stands here on its octagonal base – alas though without the carved cross-head. But ‘this’ carved section is safe and secure in the south transept of St Nicholas’ church after it was stolen some years back. We don’t know with any certainty the age of the carved cross-head or where it came from: the thinking being that it is was perhaps carved between the 11th and 13th centuries, whereas the shaft and base are from the 14th or 15th century? with some damage caused to the shaft in the 16th. Could the carved section have come from a castle, an abbey, or some other church; that we don’t know, or do we* The carved section, now in the church, shows Christ crucified on one side and Mary and baby Jesus on the other with what could be the outline of a bovine animal lower down; the carving of Mary and Jesus seems to be ‘a crude affair’ compared to that on the opposite face suggesting, perhaps, that it was carved at a different date? It was probably a preaching or wayside cross. Locally, it is sometimes called ‘Jack o’ Kent’s Cross – after the giant and magician who lived at Kentchurch Court. He was not, however, buried beneath the cross. In fact, Jack’s body was buried only just outside Grosmont church!

*Chris Barber (1992) alludes to the following bit of interesting information regarding a carved stone found at Llanfihangel Crucorney, 6 miles southwest of Grosmont. He tells that: “When the church was being rebuilt in 1834, with money raised by public subscription, an ancient stone was revealed. On one side is a representation of the Virgin Mary with baby in her arms and on the reverse side is Christ on the cross between two thieves.” 

Cross Ash School children (1985) tell us in their delightful booklet about the local giant, saying that: “Under the wall of the South Transept, according to legend, lies the body of the giant, Jack of Kent, buried half inside the church and half outside the church, where his tombstone can still be seen.” The school children also mention that: “the font probably dates back to 1150. It is one hundred years older than the church itself. This could mean that at one time there was another church on the site. There is a pattern of a rope on the font, which was common in 1150.”

Donald Gregory (1991) says of St Nicholas’ church that: “This non-Celtic dedication probably indicates that this was the first church to be built on that site. Certainly most of what is still visible in the church and churchyard dates from the same time as the stone castle. Gregory adds that: “Near the entrance gate in the northern consecrated part of the churchyard is an early medieval preaching cross, part of whose shaft remains, firmly secured and — unusually — into an octagonal base; it may be noted, though no known inference may be derived from the observation, that the stout tower of the church is likewise octagonal. The shaft was lopped in the sixteenth century, but curiously enough the carved capstone, which was later placed upon it, is definitely of medieval origin, although where it came from no-one knows.” 

Chris Barber (1984) tells us more about the church. He says: “Go into the church and you will immediately feel an atmosphere of antiquity, peace and mustiness. The floor of the now disused nave is well illustrated with engraved stones and there are many interesting tablets to read on the walls. In a corner of the nave can be seen a wooden chest known as the ‘”Grosmont Hutch”‘ and a half finished effigy of a knight, which is reputed to be that of Jack o’ Kent who once resided in this corner of Gwent. Numerous stories are told about his deeds and adventures. Some claimed that he was Owain Glyndwr in disguise.; others accused him of being a wizard in league with the devil. A legend tells that Jack made a pact with Satan that he should have his soul when he died, whether he was buried inside the church or outside. However, Jack cunningly fooled the devil by arranging for his burial to take place under the very walls of the church at Grosmont, so that he was neither inside nor outside. An old tombstone in the churchyard close to the east wall is said to cover his remains and it is claimed that he died at the age of 120 years. A proverb once used in this neighbourhood would describe someone “‘as clever as the devil or Jack of Kent”‘.

Sources and related websites:-

Barber, Chris, The Seven Hills Of Abergavenny, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1992.

Barber, Chris, Exploring Gwent — A Walker’s Guide To Gwent Land Of History And Legend, Regional Publications (Bristol) Limited, Clifton, Bristol, 1984.

Cross Ash School, Churches And Castles — Within the Grosmont Skenfrith and White Castle Trilateral, 1985.

Gregory, Donald, Country Churchyards In Wales, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Capel Garmon, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1991.

The Church In Wales, Great Churches in the Diocese of Monmouth — a Visitors Guide (Transl. by Sian Edwards), June 2005.

St Nicholas Church

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_St_Nicholas,_Grosmont

http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/221965/details/st-nicholas-church-grosmont

https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=571

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_o%27_Kent

https://www.spookyisles.com/2014/07/jack-okent-the-welsh-doctor-faustus/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


The Wolverhampton Cross, St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

The Wolverhampton Cross, St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton.

Information board near the cross, St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton.

OS Grid Reference: SO 91406 98769.  Near the south door of St Peter’s Parish Church, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, stands a 4m high blackened column which is called ‘The Wolverhampton Cross’, St Peter’s Garden Cross, or sometimes Saint Wulfruna’s Cross. This curious column may, in fact, have come from the Roman town of Wroxeter, but in the mid-9th century AD Saxon stone-masons added carvings to it and, from that time on, it became a preaching cross that ‘may’ have been associated with a Saxon monastery on the site, though there seems to be little evidence for that. A small, slender stone cross used to be affixed to the top of the column’s capital. The decorative Anglo-Saxon carvings on this cylindrical shaped monument are now very faint and indecipherable, but in certain light and shade they tend to be more visible. At the north-side of the church is a modern statue of Wulfruna, a 10th century Mercian saint. St Peter’s Collegiate Church stands between the Council Offices and Wolverhampton Gallery on Wulfruna Street and St Peter’s Walk, at the north-side of central Wolverhampton, opposite the University and Arena Theatre buildings.

The Wolverhampton Cross stands beside St Peter’s parish church.

The Wolverhampton Cross, Wroxeter Roman column, St Peter’s Garden Cross or, even Saint Wulfruna’s Cross, call it what you will, is a column/pillar made of sandstone that stands just over 4 metres (13½ feet) high on its large sturdy base of four rounded steps. It cylinder-shaped shaft gradually tapers away towards the top to be surmounted by a capital where originally a cross was built onto it – and what a spectacular monument it must have been. Thought to date from 850 AD although historians now tend to think that it was carved in the late 10th century at which time (994 AD) a monastery was founded here by St Wulfruna and the original church perhaps raised to ‘minster status’, although scholars think it unlikely that there ever was a Saxon monastery. The present church is 15th century. If the column did originally come from Roman Wroxeter (Viraconium), could it have been stolen by Saxon stone carvers? – so to speak, and then brought to Wolverhampton! There are carvings on the column, although faint, of foliage, acanthus leaves, scrolls, beasts, birds and other ornament, but you’ll need to look very closely and have the right light and shade.

Robert Harbison (1993) writes that: “Outside the S door is the mid 9c Wolverhampton cross. From afar it looks like a column suffering from comically exaggerated entasis. It is very black and hard to decipher, but at the right distance you see roundels separated by decorative bands, then a subliminal lattice and, depending from it, V-shaped feelers of decora-tion which trail off into the uncarved base. It is an inventive scheme without parallel elsewhere.”

Kendrick (1938) “considered the decoration to be unique; the only surviving example in England which demonstrated the southern continental Baroque style.. He also thought (1949) that it illustrated “a taste for a crowded display of finicky decoration”, which is also reflected in the later Stapleford Cross,” according to the Wikipedia website.

Robert Harbison (1993) tells of St Peter’s Church “St Peter’s chancel is long and prominent, made that way in the 1860s by Ewan Christian to balance the 16c tower. Old photos reveal that the E end is all Victorian. Here they were right, because the 17c chancel was undeniably mean. Inside, however, we deduce the addition was planned for external effect, because from within it feels much too long.

“The nave is an awesome space, towering up to the gloom of a good roof. In the N aisle interesting Whallish windows of local provenance. On the Perp stone pulpit there’s a wonderful lion guarding the stair.

“Behind one of the mellow screens in the S transept is a compelling monument to an admiral by Le Sueur, with a mannered lifesize portrait flanked by sprawling babies, a bronze trio of enigmatic force.” 

St Peter’s parish Church with modern statue of St Wulfruna.

As to St Wulfruna, mentioned earlier, not that much is known, though she seems to have been purely a local saint; and a noblewoman of the royal house of Mercia. She was the wife of Earl Athelme, mother of St Wulfric of Burton, and granddaughter of King Aethelred I. King Edgar was related to her. Legend tells that in 948 Wulfruna was kidnapped and imprisoned at Tam-worth by the Viking chieftain, Olaf, but she did manage to escape!  Some have suggested that she founded a convent at or near the present St Peter’s Church (at the place called Hēatūn, later known as Wolverhampton), but this might not be the case. It would seem she was granted some land at Pelsall (Peoleshale) in 985. St Wulfruna died and was buried at Tamworth in 996 or 1005. There is a holy well named after her in Goresbrook Road, Wolverhampton (see link below). A modern statue of Lady Wulfruna by Wheeler stands in the square at the north-side of St Peter’s church.

Sources & related websites:-

Harbison, Robert, The Shell Guide to English Parish Churches, André Deutsch Limited, London, 1993. 

Kendrick T. D., Anglo Saxon Art to AD 900, p 192-3, 1938.

Kendrick T. D., Late Saxon and Viking Art, p 71-2 (plate XLVI), 1949.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverhampton_Pillar

http://blackcountryhistory.org/collections/getrecord/WOHER_MBL337/

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/08/07/wulfrunas-well-wolverhampton-west-midlands/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wulfrun

http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/wulfruna/wulfruna01.htm

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1005886

http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/Penn/history/AngloSaxons.htm

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2018.

 


Donaghmore High Cross, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

The Donagh-more High Cross.

Irish Grid Reference: J 10443 34964. In an isolated and lonely spot beside Donaghmore Road, just east of the A1 (Dublin to Belfast Road), is the Early Christian Ecclesiastical site of Donaghmore (Domnach Mor) Moy Cova, and a churchyard beside the 19th century St Patrick’s Church, which belongs to the Church of Ireland. But here also stands the highly sculptured 10th century Donaghmore High Cross with its distinctive ringed cross-head. The place-name Donaghmore means ‘The Great Church’. Here in the 5th century AD St Patrick is thought to have established a church. This quite isolated little churchyard is located some 5 miles north of Newry and 6 miles south of Banbridge in Co. Down, Northern Ireland. To reach the site head north out of Newry for 5 miles on several country roads: Downshire, Belfast, Corcreechy and Aughnacavan, but keeping to the east of the A1 (Belfast road). On reaching a junction of four roads go right onto Donaghmore Road – where on your right you will soon see St Patrick’s Church and the Donaghmore Cross.

The Donaghmore High Cross or St Mac Erc’s Cross is a highly sculptured granite ring-head cross which is 10 feet high and is thought to date from the 9th or 10th century AD. It has a thick sturdy shaft and stands on a base of two steps. The ring-head probably came from another similar cross. It was re-erected at the S. side of St Patrick’s Church in 1891, but probably not in its original position. Depicted on the cross are several Biblical characters and scenes, and also panels with figures and decorative interlacing. Biblical characters and scenes on (W. Face) are: Noah’s Ark, Adam & Eve and Moses & David. The cross-head (W. Face) shows Christ’s crucifixion. He has long outstretched arms. At each side of Christ there are figures maybe of Stephaton and Longinus, two thieves and soldiers. An angel around Christ’s head. The (N. Face) depicts David & Goliath and interlacing. An angel on the cross-head. The (E. Face) has David or The Judgment of Solomon (David plays his lyre for Saul). Also figures, Moses smites water from the rock, David with the head of Goliath, David slaying the lion, The Last Judgment and St Paul with a bird or beast. S. Face has David and Solomon holding a child or other up-side down and St Paul or maybe St Anthony in the Desert.

St Patrick’s (Church of Ireland) church at Donaghmore is a 19th century building that replaced earlier Medieval churches and, before those, a church that was founded by St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, in the 5th century. St Mac Erc, who was the brother of St Mochaoi (Mochua) and a disciple of St Patrick, probably became the first bishop of Donaghmore. His feast day is celebrated on 6th July. St Mochaoi founded the monastery of Nendrum on Mahee Island, Co. Down. He died in c497. Legend says that St Patrick converted the local chieftain to Christianity here at Donaghmore, and in thanks ‘he’ built his church beside the fort (rath) from where the chieftain ruled his people. There is a blocked-up souterrain (underground passage) in the churchyard; this may have originally been connected to the fort. The church itself stands on the mound which was part of the fort. There are also some faint earthworks in a field on the opposite side of the road over to the west of the churchyard at (J 1012 3496).

Sources and related websites:

Connolly, Greenwood, Hawkins & Wallis, Ireland – The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., London, 1999.

Fisher, Graham & Pennington, John, Historic Britain, Odhams Books, Feltham, Middlesex, 1953.

http://irishhighcrosses.com/down-crosses.html

http://irishantiquities.bravehost.com/down/donaghmoreHC/donaghmoreHC.html

http://lisburn.com/books/dromore-diocese/parish-donaghmore.html

http://archive.org/stream/ancientirishpari00cowarich/ancientirishpari00cowarich_djvu.txt

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donaghmore,_County_Down

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.