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Two high cross shafts in St Bridget's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Beckermet, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.4402 / 54°26'24"N

Longitude: -3.5202 / 3°31'12"W

OS Eastings: 301502.727853

OS Northings: 506045.102248

OS Grid: NY015060

Mapcode National: GBR 3KV3.P2

Mapcode Global: WH5ZN.WNWD

Entry Name: Two high cross shafts in St Bridget's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 30 December 1952

Last Amended: 22 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012644

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23782

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Beckermet

Built-Up Area: Beckermet

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Beckermet St Bridget

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes part of a ninth century Anglian cross shaft and part of
a late tenth/early eleventh century Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft located
side by side in the churchyard to the south of St Bridget's Church, Beckermet.
The earlier fragment of cross shaft is constructed of pale yellow sandstone
and has a cross section which is squarish with rounded angles. It measures
1.32m high, has a maximum circumference of 1.75m at the base, and fits into a
sandstone socle or base which has a rectangular socket and is thus not the
original for this shaft. A triple collar carving encircles the shaft and
divides it into approximately two equal halves. Below this collar the shaft is
undecorated, above the collar there is decoration on all sides. The broad west
face is covered by a very worn inscription. Five lines are marked out by
incised frames and there may have been some letters in the scalloped space at
the base. It reads:
At present this text has not been deciphered, nor has the language in which it
was written been determined. The broad east face of the shaft depicts a bush
scroll with berry bunches and a pair of leaves, the narrow north face shows
part of a tree scroll with three or four symmetrical spirals containing berry
bunches and a number of isolated berries in the scroll, and the south face
depicts part of a split-stemmed plant trail carving. The cross shaft is dated
to the second quarter of the ninth century.
The later fragment of cross shaft is constructed of red sandstone and in cross
section it has a rounded base with a rectangular upper part. It measures 1.72m
high, has a maximum circumference of 1.2m, and fits into a sandstone socle or
base. A triple collar carving encircles the lower part of the shaft. Below
this collar the shaft is undecorated, above it is decorated on all sides with
single panels bordered by roll moulding at the sides and swag moulding at the
bottom. Within each of these panels vertical rows of interlace carving is
depicted. The cross shaft is dated to the tenth or 11th century.
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

Although incomplete and partly weathered, the two high cross shafts in St
Bridget's churchyard, Beckermet, survive reasonably well and display good and
unusual examples of late Anglian and Anglo-Scandinavian art styles. In
particular the use of three encircling mouldings or collars around the shafts
is the only known example of such decoration in Cumbria. Likewise the
inscription on the older of the cross shafts is in a form of lettering unique
in Cumbria. Together these cross shafts attest to the importance of both the
church and its environs as a pre-Conquest centre of ecclesiastical importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bailey, R N, Cramp, R, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, (1988), 54-7

Source: Historic England

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