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Inchinnan, cross slabs & cross shaft

A Scheduled Monument in Erskine and Inchinnan, Renfrewshire

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Latitude: 55.8894 / 55°53'21"N

Longitude: -4.4329 / 4°25'58"W

OS Eastings: 247940

OS Northings: 668927

OS Grid: NS479689

Mapcode National: GBR 3K.1TM5

Mapcode Global: WH3NZ.W78G

Entry Name: Inchinnan, cross slabs & cross shaft

Scheduled Date: 2 July 1925

Last Amended: 23 February 1977

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1655

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Inchinnan

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Erskine and Inchinnan

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises three sculptured stones, dating to a period between the 10th and 12th centuries AD. The collection is made up of a recumbent slab, parts of a freestanding cross and what is interpreted as a possible shrine cover. Originally from Inchinnan parish church, which was demolished in 1977, the stones were subsequently moved to an enclosure in the new parish churchyard.

Nearly rectangular, the recumbent slab tapers gently along its length and measures around 1.5m long by 0.5m wide. Carved into this sandstone slab is a long-shafted cross set against three separate panels of double-beaded interlace. The second stone comprises the shaft and lower part of the head of a freestanding cross. Measuring 1.5m by 0.5m wide and carved from sandstone, the main or front face of the cross-shaft is decorated with three panels of interlace. On the right side each panel features the same pattern while the left-hand side features three different types of interlace. As the rear face appears to have been broken away, it is unclear whether it was also decorated. The third stone is a substantial rectangular slab of sandstone some 1.85m by 0.58m and about 0.25m thick. The top face of the slab is highly decorated and these carvings are set within a rectangular frame. Dominating the decoration is a centrally-positioned cross. This is a plain long-shafted motif. Above its top arm is a pair of beasts. On either side of the top arm (standing on the side arms) are more beasts, apparently biting their tails. At the end of both side arms is a figure of eight device. Flanking the base of the cross is a four-cord plait. Beneath the cross-shaft is a pair of wild animals devouring what appears to be a human leg and foot. Below is a human figure between two beasts.

The Scheduled area is shown in red on the attached map.

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

These monuments belong to a distinctive group of sculpture executed in a style found throughout the British (early medieval) kingdom of Strathclyde. Dating from around AD 900 - 1100, this group of sculpture is probably the least studied of all Scotland's early Christian monuments.

Apart from the Govan collection, the Strathclyde monuments are poorly recorded and relatively little-known. However, the sculpture has come to be recognised as central to any understanding of the British kingdom in Strathclyde. These three monuments are part of a prominent cluster of British sculpture around Inchinnan, which also includes a socketed cross-base found near the river crossing over the River Cart. The recumbent cross-slab is particularly significant, being one of only two such stones known outside of the 10th century burial ground at Govan. This site is known to have had strong connections with the ruling elite and it is possible that these recumbent cross-slabs were produced at Govan. Freestanding crosses often stood near main thoroughfares, as seen with the Barochan and Mountblow crosses. The elaborate decoration covering the large flat slab lends weight to the theory that it formed part of a shrine (in the 15th century the historian John of Fordoun described Inchinnan as having a shrine to St Conval, an Irish missionary who is reputed to have established a church in Renfrewshire in the 6th century). The conjunction of these monuments suggests Inchinnan enjoyed a significant level of patronage or held some special association.

None of the Strathclyde sculpture exhibits the technical expertise or artistic vision seen in the finest sculpture of the Picts or the Gaels, but this does not diminish their wider value. The flatness and lack of detail on the worn surfaces may indicate that sculptures 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 other art forms such as manuscripts.

Contextual characteristics

These stones stood within the graveyard of the medieval parish church of Inchinnan, dedicated to St Conval, which was demolished in 1828 and replaced with a new building. In 1900 this building was also demolished and replaced by All Hallows Church. Following expansion plans by the airfield at Abbotsinch, a new parish church was established in 1965 and the stones moved to their present location. Based on placename evidence, Inchinnan is likely an early Christian foundation, dedicated to St Finnian/Ninian/Uinniau of Whithorn. This lends some credence to the tradition the site was founded by St Conval.

Associative characteristics

Inchinnan is closely associated with the story of St Conval, an Irish prince who travelled to Scotland and preached Christianity. Some traditions describe Conval as a pupil of St Kentigern, the founder of Glasgow Cathedral. According to tradition, Conval sailed to Scotland on a stone and landed at Inchinnan where he built a wattle church beside Eastwood Burn close to where it meets Auldhouse Burn. An evangelist, Conval baptised converts in a spring there that later became known as St. Conval's Well. Now within Eastwood Old Cemetery, the site is lies close to the ruins that can be seen in the cemetery of a post-reformation church.

The figurative scene on the top face of the putative shrine cover is likely to be a reference to the Biblical story of Daniel in the lion's den.

The Inchinnan stones belong to a distinctive school of sculpture representing one of the most tangible links with the early medieval kingdom of Strathclyde. Of all the early medieval British kingdoms in Scotland, Strathclyde is probably the best understood owing to its longevity.

What we understand to be the early medieval kingdom of Strathclyde emerged from the Iron Age/Roman Iron Age tribe known as the Damnonii and was one of at least four British princedoms in Southern Scotland and Northern England in the 5th and 6th centuries. Throughout its long history, its principal royal centre lay at Dumbarton (named by the Anglo-Saxon writer Bede as Alt Clut) although it is likely that others existed. Like the other British early medieval kingdoms, its boundaries appear to have been fluid, although its core appears to have been the middle Clyde. By the 10th century, Strathclyde controlled most of southwestern Scotland and a large portion of Cumbria although it far from clear whether Strathclyde operated as a unified kingdom or a series of lordships under the dominion or sway of Dumbarton. Strathclyde ceased to enjoy independence after its last king died at the Battle of Carham in 1013, its territories becoming part of the Kingdom of Scotland.

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 south west Scotland. All three pieces of sculpture survive in good condition and the recumbent cross-slab is one of only two such stones found outside the important royal burial ground at Govan. Equally, the putative shrine cover is finely decorated and represents a connection with what may be a pilgrimage site in early medieval Strathclyde. These stones form 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 the Strathclyde school is not as 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 southwestern Scotland, as well as our knowledge of the early historic societies that produced it.

Statement added on 24 November 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Full Details

RCAHMS record the site as NS46NE 7.01. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 7653.

Allen J R and Anderson J, 1903, The early Christian monuments of Scotland: a classified illustrated descriptive list of the monuments with an analysis of their symbolism and ornamentation. Edinburgh, vol 2 456-9

Driscoll S, O'Grady O and Forsyth K, 2005, 'The Govan School Revisited: searching for meaning in the early medieval sculpture of Strathclyde' in Foster and Cross (eds) Able Minds and Practised Hands: Scotland's Early Medieval Sculpture in the 21st century, Society of Medieval Archaeology Monograph 23, Maney, 135-58

Driscoll S and Forsyth K, 2004, 'The late Iron Age and early historic period'. Scottish Archaeological Journal 26, 4-20

Details added on 24 November 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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