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High cross shaft in St John's churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Waberthwaite, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.3435 / 54°20'36"N

Longitude: -3.3854 / 3°23'7"W

OS Eastings: 310033.105978

OS Northings: 495105.68891

OS Grid: SD100951

Mapcode National: GBR 4LS6.VQ

Mapcode Global: WH71F.Z320

Entry Name: High cross shaft in St John's churchyard

Scheduled Date: 19 November 1965

Last Amended: 20 June 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012711

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23779

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Waberthwaite

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Waberthwaite St John

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a late ninth/early-tenth century Anglo-Scandinavian high
cross shaft located in the churchyard to the south of St John's Church,
Waberthwaite. The shaft is constructed of red sandstone and is rectangular in
cross section tapering slightly towards the top. It is 2m high, measures
48.5cm wide by 27.5cm thick at its base, and is set into a sandstone socle or
base measuring 86cm by 65cm and 43cm high. The shaft is decorated on all four
sides. The east face is divided into four panels and depicts animal figures
together with roll moulding and interlace carving. The west face depicts a
single panel divided by a vertical moulding into two parallel strips of
interlace carving. The north face depicts interlace carving while the south
face also depicts interlace with the addition of a bird-like head towards the
top of the shaft. This decoration combines Viking period interlace carving
with the earlier Anglian artistic tradition of winged birds and animals.
The cross shaft was found in 1825 during rebuilding of the church porch and
subsequently reused as a lintel. It was moved to its present position between
1884-89 and set in what is thought to be its original socket.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 0 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 the cross head has been lost, the high cross shaft in St John's
churchyard displays a good example of ninth/ early tenth century Anglo-
Scandinavian art styles. In particular it represents an impressive fusion of
Anglian and Scandinavian artistic traditions linked with a local taste for
parallel strips of ornamentation.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bailey, R N, Cramp, R, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, (1988), 151-2

Source: Historic England

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