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Anglo-Scandinavian high cross shaft and medieval cross base in the churchyard of All Saints' Church

A Scheduled Monument in Brailsford, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 52.9682 / 52°58'5"N

Longitude: -1.6367 / 1°38'12"W

OS Eastings: 424497.570501

OS Northings: 341265.255737

OS Grid: SK244412

Mapcode National: GBR 5BR.T76

Mapcode Global: WHCFD.TNTC

Entry Name: Anglo-Scandinavian high cross shaft and medieval cross base in the churchyard of All Saints' Church

Scheduled Date: 24 June 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008607

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23346

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Brailsford

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Brailsford All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument includes the shaft of a late ninth or tenth century high cross
and the separate socle or base of a medieval standing cross. Together, shaft
and socle stand as markers at the west and east ends respectively of the grave
of Charles Henry Fairfax who was rector of the parish of Brailsford from 1904
until his death in 1919.
The medieval socle consists of an undecorated dressed sandstone block with
worn chamfered corners. It measures 62cm by 55cm by 43cm tall and, in the top,
includes a rectangular socket which measures 36cm by 28cm and gives an
indication of the scale and shape of the missing medieval cross shaft. The
Anglo-Scandinavian high cross shaft is also sandstone and has a columnar lower
section separated from a tapering rectangular upper section by a collar
comprising two rings of roll-moulding. Originally a cross head would have
surmounted the shaft. It is also likely that the shaft was originally set into
a socle since the bottom part of it tapers inwards to slot into a round
socket. Currently it is mortared onto a modern sandstone base.
The rectangular upper section of the shaft is decorated on two faces with
interlace carving and, on the remaining faces, with a `key' design similar to
patterns associated with Viking tablet-weaving. Cable-mouldings edge the
angles of the shaft, framing the ornamentation. The upper half of the columnar
section is also highly ornamented and this decoration formerly covered the
eroded lower half where, currently, only traces remain to indicate the
continuation of an overall pattern. On the north side this pattern comprises a
crudely executed interlace design filled with raised dots. This gives way, on
the east and west sides, to a series of spirals which are similar to but
cruder than the plant scrolls commonly seen on high crosses of a century or so
earlier. The crudeness of the carving indicates that the cross had a secular
origin, possibly as a memorial, and this is also suggested by the figure of a
Viking carved on the upper part of the south face. The figure, which is 40cm
high and framed by diagonal bands of interlace and roll-moulding, faces out
from the shaft and has an ovoid head with simple incised features, a
knee-length garment ornamented to represent a byrnie or chainmail shirt, crude
stick-like legs with left-pointing feet and simple arms and shoulders carved
in a continuous line. In its right hand it holds a Viking-style sword with the
blade angled across the body, and, in its upraised left hand, a round shield
with an incised boss. A plaque attached to the modern cross base indicates
that the Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft was found buried beneath the medieval
socle in July 1919 and was set on its current base in that same year. The
shaft is 132cm high and has a maximum diameter of c.40cm. The grave and the
modern cross base are excluded from the scheduling together with all other
graves falling within the area of the scheduling and the surface of the path
immediately to the south, although the ground beneath these features is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of
locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found
throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving
examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses
were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of
carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this
tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be
either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within
dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently
small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross.
High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with
established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services,
some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes
or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration
of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and
interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the
rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved
ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these
pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and
erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church,
but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the
art styles and mythology of Viking settlers.
Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been
identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are
fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to
represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were
defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th
centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new
building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and
changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs
during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the
north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally

Although somewhat eroded, the cross shaft in the churchyard of All Saints',
Brailsford is a good example of a later high cross displaying the crude
decoration and Viking motifs brought to this class of monument by the
Scandinavian settlement of the East Midlands. The adjacent socle is an
important component of a later medieval standing cross whose location in the
churchyard indicates a specifically religious function linked to the liturgy
of the church calendar.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 45, (1925)
Routh, J E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 58, (1937)

Source: Historic England

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