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Anglo-Scandinavian cross, St Mary's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Rolleston on Dove, Staffordshire

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Latitude: 52.8465 / 52°50'47"N

Longitude: -1.6518 / 1°39'6"W

OS Eastings: 423547.535653

OS Northings: 327718.261752

OS Grid: SK235277

Mapcode National: GBR 5D8.H6B

Mapcode Global: WHCFZ.LQM6

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

Scheduled Date: 13 November 1963

Last Amended: 9 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012670

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21600

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Rolleston on Dove

Built-Up Area: Rolleston on Dove

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Rolleston St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes an Anglo-Scandinavian stone cross located in the
churchyard of St Mary's Church, Rolleston, 0.75m west of the church. The
cross is of stepped form and is early medieval and modern in date. The
monument includes the base, consisting of a plinth and two steps, of late 19th
century date; and an early medieval shaft and cross-head which have been
carved from a single block of stone.
The steps are rectangular in plan and rest on a stone plinth. The shaft has
been erected on the upper step and has a tapering, rectangular section. The
shaft stands 0.9m high and is believed to represent the upper part of the
early medieval cross-shaft. The southern face of the shaft retains evidence of
decoration in the form of a plaitwork interlacement enclosed within a panel;
while the faint outline of a rectangular panel can be distinguished on the
western face. The cross-head is of the ringed type and has a diameter of
0.92m. Its four arms are not continuous but end as curled knobs at the
extremeties. These join with one another, and the arms thus form, on the
outside, an indented circle. The outer circumference of the lower part of the
head is ornamented with single cord interlacement set within moulded panels
and slight traces of an interlacing triquetra (an ornament of three interlaced
arcs) are visible on the southern arm. The western face of the cross-head is
decorated with a carved central boss and an encircling ring. The full height
of the cross is approximately 2.3m. The protected area includes a 1m margin
around the north, west and east sides of the cross.

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

The Anglo-Scandinavian cross at Rolleston survives well and is the only known
Staffordshire example of a cross with a complete cross-head which remains
attached to its shaft. The Scandinavian-influenced decoration on both the
shaft and the head provide an important contribution towards an understanding
of the regional and chronological variations in the design of early medieval
crosses. While the cross-head and part of the shaft survive from the early
medieval period, its erection in the churchyard and subsequent restoration
illustrate its continued function as a standing monument and public amenity.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Rectangular-shafted pre-Norman crosses of North Staffordshire, , Vol. 81, (1947), 45

Source: Historic England

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