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High cross in St Paul's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Irton with Santon, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.3914 / 54°23'29"N

Longitude: -3.4005 / 3°24'1"W

OS Eastings: 309159.95

OS Northings: 500454.916076

OS Grid: NY091004

Mapcode National: GBR 4KPN.LK

Mapcode Global: WH711.QWXB

Entry Name: High cross in St Paul's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 9 January 1953

Last Amended: 22 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012642

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23780

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Irton with Santon

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Irton St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes an early ninth century Anglian high cross located in the
churchyard to the south of St Paul's church, Irton. It is constructed of red
sandstone and the shaft is rectangular in cross section tapering slightly
towards the top. It measures 3.1m high and is set into a sandstone socle or
base. The shaft measures 49cm wide by 25cm thick at its base and is decorated
on all four sides. The broad west face is edged with delicate interlace
carving and is divided into two large panels of interlace separated by a small
panel apparently for an inscription. The east face is divided into five panels
each differently decorated and depicting, from top to bottom; diamonds and St
Andrew's crosses, key pattern, a geometric cross of elaborate spiral carving,
key pattern surrounded by roll moulding, and a geometric cross similar to the
one above. The narrow north and south faces contain spiral scroll carving
edged with roll moulding. The cross head is likewise elaborately decorated;
the west face depicts interlace carving on the arms and a central circle
enclosing five pellets arranged in a cruciform pattern. The east face has
plant scroll carving enclosing beasts of indeterminate type, two human
figures, and a central projecting boss surrounded by roll moulding and a
circle of pellets. The narrow north and south faces of the cross head depict
interlace carving. The fine and varied decoration on this cross is pre-Viking
in date. It has similarities with some Irish crosses and some of the geometric
ornamentation is thought to be manuscript derived, indicating the
manufacturers' contact with a literate centre.
All graves and headstones within the area of the scheduling are excluded from
the scheduling but the ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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

The high cross in St Paul's churchyard, Irton, is an excellent example of this
class of monument. It is a rare survival of an intact high cross and is one of
the most highly decorated crosses in Cumbria.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bailey, R N, Cramp, R, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, (1988), 115-17

Source: Historic England

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