OS grid reference SK 2156 6848. In All Saints’ churchyard on Church Lane, near the centre of Bakewell, Derbyshire, stand two rather weather-beaten Anglo-Saxon, Mercian-style crosses known collectively as Bakewell Churchyard Crosses. The tallest of the crosses has lost its head, rather sadly, while the smaller cross known as ‘Beeley Cross’ is what you might call ‘a stumpy shaft’, although it has the best surviving carved decoration of the two. Inside the porch there is a large collection of Anglo-Saxon and Norman stones and, in the church itself another collection of ancient stones known as ‘The Bateman Collection’. The town of Bakewell in the centre of the Peak District National Park is on the A6 Derby to Manchester road, and Matlock is some 8 miles to the south-west on the A6, whilst Buxton lies 9 miles to the west on the very same road.
Near the east wall of the parish church, beside the outer wall of the Vernon Chapel, stands the best-known of the two crosses here; however it’s carvings are now quite warn and most of the head is missing and because of this it is only around 8 feet high now. It is said to date from the 7th to 9th centuries AD and is very similar to the Eyam Cross in Derbyshire, although that particular cross retains it’s head! The cross was almost certainly carved here at Bakewell as there was apparently a thriving stone-carving operation going on, supplying the northern part of the ‘Kingdom of Mercia’ – that’s why there are so many carved crosses and stones in this ‘one’ place. The cross originally stood at a cross roads just south of Hassop village about 1 mile north of Bakewell. On the east face three large vine-scrolls with grapes in their centres and vine leafs in the spaces around the scrolls; at the bottom a cross in a circle and at the top, below the damaged head, a creature holding something in it’s paw and it’s long tail curled around it’s back, while above that a horse is trampling on a human figure? The west face has four arched panels showing the Annunciation, a figure holding a cross, another figure holding a horn and a figure that is now worn away. These figures might be Odin and Loki from pagan Norse mythology. On the north and south faces scrolls turning in opposite directions. The north face also has a crucifixion scene with soldiers on either side, one with a spear and the other holding a sponge. The cross-base is a large, unhewn lump of stone but probably not as old as the cross?
The carvings on the smaller 10th century cross known as ‘Beeley Cross’, which is 5 feet 4 inches high, are better preserved. This cross was dug up in a field at Holt House 1 mile north of Darley Dale or, alternately it was dug up from beside the Chatsworth to Alfreton road (B6012) near Screetham farm at Beeley during the 19th century and, later brought to All Saints’ churchyard, Bakewell. Carved onto this cross there are circles (spheres) linked-together (top and bottom) on all it’s four faces, varying in size, with slightly smaller spheres inside and crosses or wheel-like patterns (banding) across these or, according to Neville T.Sharpe in his excellent book ‘Crosses of the Peak District‘ “interlaced carving with the interstices filled with small hemespheres” – reminicent apparently to the Saxon cross at Hope church, Derbyshire. There is other decoration too including groups of dots in circles. The cross-base is perhaps of a late medieval date and stands at 2 foot high and 2 foot 7 inches wide with nicely chamfered corners.
In the south porch (now the main entrance) there is an amazing collection of upto 40 Anglo-Saxon stones, some quite large, piled one on top of the other; there are cross-fragments, pieces of grave-covers, of all shapes and sizes, as well as some grotesque ‘Celtic’ stone heads that may in fact be medieval, while on the opposite side there are carved Norman stones. At the rear of the church another pile of ancient stones known as The Bateman Collection, named after Thomas Bateman (1821-61) the English antiquarian and archaeologist who collected them together in 1842. Among this collection are a number of cross-shaft pieces. These were restored to the church in 1899 after residing in the Weston Park Museum at Sheffield. The 14th century font is carved with various figures and the rood-screen dates from the 15th century. Standing against the outside wall a collection of medieval coffins, shaped to fit the bodies that were in them! All Saints’ is a partly Norman and Early English church, but they was undoubtedly a Saxon church of the 7th century here before the present-day building, perhaps even a Romano-British settlement?
Sharpe, Neville T., Crosses Of The Peak District, Landmark Publishing Limited, Asbourne, Derbyshire, 2002.
Clarke, David., Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, Jarrold Publishing, Norwich, 1991.
Jones, Lawrence E. & Tricker, Roy., County Guide To English Churches, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 1992.
Pickford, Doug., Earth Mysteries of the Three Shires, Churnet Valley Books, Leek, Staffordshire, 1996.