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Anglo-Scandinavian cross fragment, St Peter's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Alstonefield, Staffordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.0953 / 53°5'43"N

Longitude: -1.803 / 1°48'10"W

OS Eastings: 413287.966823

OS Northings: 355361.275404

OS Grid: SK132553

Mapcode National: GBR 47N.T4V

Mapcode Global: WHCDR.8GPF

Entry Name: Anglo-Scandinavian cross fragment, St Peter's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 21 December 1964

Last Amended: 12 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012669

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21599

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Alstonefield

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Alstonfield St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield

Details

The monument includes part of a Anglo-Scandinavian stone cross located in the
churchyard of St Peter's Church in Alstonefield, approximately 15m east of
the north porch. The cross, which is Listed Grade II*, takes the form of a
base, comprising a socket-stone of medieval date; and part of an early
medieval shaft.
The socket-stone is roughly 0.3m square in section with moulded corners of a
type which are characteristic of the medieval period. It has a rectangular
hole cut in its top which is slightly too large for the present shaft. The
rectangular-sectioned shaft was discovered within the churchyard in the mid
19th century and re-erected in the socket-stone. It stands to a height of
0.7m and is carved in pink Millstone Grit. It is decorated on three of its
four sides, and although the shaft itself is not tapered, the panels of
decoration are narrower towards the top of the shaft fragment. The east face
is decorated with an interlaced plaitwork of six strands which is thought to
finish at the base, where the bottom of the panel is defined by a single
strand. The top of this eastern panel is incomplete. The southern face is
carved with interlaced plaitwork with bands of moulding on either side of the
panel. Of the northern and western sides of the shaft, the decoration is less
easily discernible, the west side retaining traces of knotwork within its
upper portion.
The modern brick-built drain to the west of the cross is excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 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
important.

The cross to the south west of St Peter's Church in Alstonefield is a good
example of an early medieval cross with Scandinavian-influenced ornamentation
on the shaft. It provides information on the variability of form and
decoration of these monuments and the interplay between the different
sculptural influences of the Anglo-Scandinavian period. The base is thought to
be in or near its original location and, although part of the cross survives
from early medieval times, the re-erection of the shaft in the mid 19th
century illustrates the continued function of the cross as a public monument
and amenity.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Rectangular-shafted pre-Norman crosses of North Staffordshire, , Vol. 81, (1947), 22-23
Other
Sidebottom, P., Monuments at Risk Report, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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