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Barochan Cross

A Scheduled Monument in Paisley East and Central, Renfrewshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.845 / 55°50'41"N

Longitude: -4.4203 / 4°25'12"W

OS Eastings: 248559

OS Northings: 663956

OS Grid: NS485639

Mapcode National: GBR 3K.4XYP

Mapcode Global: WH3P6.2CC0

Entry Name: Barochan Cross

Scheduled Date: 31 March 1928

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90029

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: cross (free-standing)

Location: Paisley

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Paisley East and Central

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Description

The monument comprises a free-standing, sandstone British cross dating to around the 10th century AD. It now stands in Paisley Abbey, where it was moved for its protection in 1981. It is said originally to have stood close to the mill at Barochan, near Houston, but was moved to the top of a local knoll in the 19th century to form a landscape feature. The cross is now mounted in a modern base; the original still lies at Barochan.

The cross stands around 1.95 m high, excluding the base. Decorated on all four sides, the majority of the decoration comprises panels of bold, median-incised interlace with some key pattern. The large lower panel on the front contains an interesting figural scene that includes: a mounted warrior carrying a spear; a man carrying a drinking horn; three men, one with an axe; and two opposed animals. On the back the two main panels each contain a line of four identical figures, in addition to interlace: in the upper panel is the outline of four figures in long garments; below four figures in profile, blowing trumpets and carrying spears.

Description added on 24 November 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The Barochan Cross belongs to an important series of sculpture from the former British (early medieval) kingdom of Strathclyde. Dating from around AD 900 - 1100, this group of sculpture is probably the least familiar of all Scotland's early Christian monuments. With the exception of the Govan collection, the Strathclyde monuments are poorly recorded and little-known. However, the sculpture has come to be recognised as central to any understanding of the British kingdom in Strathclyde. The prominent martial imagery on the cross itself may lend credence to the notion that its original context was primarily secular. The figural imagery of the cross requires further research to understand better its full range of meanings (both secular and religious). None of the Strathclyde sculpture exhibits the technical expertise or artistic vision seen in the finest sculpture from Pictland or Argyll, but this does not diminish their wider value. The flatness and lack of detail on the worn surfaces may indicate that sculptures, such as Barochan, were finished with paint. The contrast with other early medieval sculpture in Scotland will in part be a reflection of chronology, local political circumstances and prevailing tradition and status of patronage of the arts, including the access to art of other media (such as manuscripts). The cross was previously broken into two and subsequently was repaired (in the 1920s and 1980s, for instance), and this fracture is readily visible.

Contextual characteristics

An understanding of the original landscape setting of the cross is crucial to appreciation of its original function. In contrast to much of the surviving sculpture from Strathclyde, Barochan Cross appears not to have been directly associated with a church. In its original location the cross was sited in a sheltered position by the ford of a burn at a point where the land (predominantly low rolling hills) begins to rise steeply and a waterfall is close by. Although the adjacent road is now only minor, this route could lead towards a crossing of the Clyde and towards Dumbarton Rock, the political centre of British Strathclyde. In its original location the cross would also have looked S to the adjacent low hillock which was the site of the old castle of Barochan, seat of the barony before its replacement by Barochan House in the 16th century. Recent aerial photographs reveal that this prominent flat-topped knoll is enclosed by a triple-ditched rampart which may be of medieval date or earlier. The associated centre of lordly patronage may, therefore, have been here. The older significance of this area is reflected in the Roman fort sited on the nearby Barochan Hill less than 1km to the E, which is possibly the site named by Ptolemy as Coria of the Dumnonii. If correct, this name is potentially significant because it derives from a Celtic word meaning 'hosting place' and may thus imply that in the Roman period Barochan was a tribal centre.

The relationship of the Barochan Cross to the local ecclesiastical landscape is not obvious. While it lies roughly equidistant between two later medieval parish churches, it does not appear to coincide with a known boundary between the two. The status and date of other ecclesiastical sites in the near vicinity is also uncertain.

Associative characteristics

Antiquarian sources refer to this monument and allow us to reconstruct its biography. They suggest the movement of the cross at least twice and provide information relating to the erection of the cross in the 19th century as a landscape feature overlooking the W entrance to the policies of Barochan House. Through time the Barochan Cross gradually lost its original social significance, eventually being reduced to a landscape ornament. However, through piecing together its biography it is possible to understand what it may have meant to the people who commissioned it and later re-used it. For example, its secondary Victorian setting on a knoll dominating the approach to the 'big house' reflects contemporary upper-class values about landscape and authority. In its earlier location, the cross may well have stood in an analogous relationship to the knoll, marking the final approach to the old castle and its predecessors.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the study of stone sculpture in SW Scotland. The cross is well-preserved and is regarded as the most ambitious of only three surviving complete crosses from early medieval Strathclyde. It represents part of a group of sculpture that is highly significant for our understanding of the British kingdom or kingdoms in Strathclyde before the 11th century. Present models show this sculpture to be complex with a great diversity of monument types, decorative motifs and landscape locations. The Strathclyde group of sculpture has been under-studied and is not yet well understood. In contrast to much other early medieval sculpture in Scotland it is not so technically or artistically accomplished, but this does not diminish its wider significance. Links with the sculpture in other parts of the British Isles, not least Whithorn, are important and these too require further study. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the sculpture of SW Scotland, as well as our knowledge of the early historic societies that produced it.

Statement added on 24 November 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as NS46NW 1. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 7653.

Details added on 24 November 2011
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Barochan Cross
https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/barochan-cross
Find out more

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/43098/
https://canmore.org.uk/site/43143/

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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