Volume II | Chapter 8 | The Anglian-Period SummarizedNext Back to catalogue index
by R.J.Cramp

A survey of the Anglian crosses in this region is a survey of individual monuments. With the exception of the group with distinctive plant scrolls at Lowther (nos. 1–2), Heversham (no. 1), and Kendal, which have been discussed above (pp. 16–17), the picture that the surviving evidence provides is of high quality and individually distinctive monuments. Each of these may be representative of a much larger group, but one cannot be sure of this. Certain common characteristics emerge, such as the liking for plant-scrolls, which occur in one form or another on practically every pre-Viking cross from this region, or the limited range of interlace types; but stylistically there are wide variations, some of which are regional, some chronological.

In the eighth century the Bewcastle cross stands alone, although there are large-scale scrolls, possibly of mid eighth-century date, at Brigham (no. 1). The small Carlisle crosses and Penrith 1 are probably of the later eighth century and may, like Bewcastle, be compared with manuscripts from east of the Pennines. But, unlike Bewcastle, the closest affinities in sculpture appear to be with Yorkshire. The cross at Dacre (no. 1) can also be seen as part of a widely dispersed stylistic group which includes Hoddom, Dumfriesshire, and Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, in the north, and Melsonby, Yorkshire, in the south. Its heavy 'Roman' style of cutting is, as at Rothbury, combined with what are apparently early ninth-century fashions in the iconography of the inhabited scrolls, and the changing patterns of scrolls into key patterns. Too little survives of the heavy, elaborate scrolls on Kirkby Stephen 2 for close comparisons to be drawn, but this piece could be of eighth- to ninth-century date also. Certain provincial fashions could coexist with those common to all Northumbria. The strange cross from Urswick (no. 1), which derives its dating from its runic inscriptions, incorporates fashionable early ninth-century features, such as human inhabitants in scrolls, and 'secular' narrative scenes, but in a provincial style of execution.

Alongside such pieces, the crisp confidence of Lowther 2 and the continental comparisons that it is possible to draw for the distinctive scrolls of the Lowther group appear all the more remarkable. It is obvious that new influences were absorbed into Cumbrian centres in the period around 800, and that fashions appear to have changed quite rapidly, or to have diversified in the ninth century.

The rather mechanical scrolls and interlace of Addingham 2 merely continue traditional motifs, but the shouldered shaft type is new to the region – unless it developed from Dacre 1. New also is the round shaft of Beckermet St Bridget 1, which is combined with fanciful bush and side-linked scrolls of a thin and insubstantial type such as are found in eastern Northumbria on, for example, Falstone 1, Northumberland. The round shaft of Beckermet St Bridget 1 is clumsy and tentative, but it established a tradition which continued into the Viking age in this region.

Perhaps the most surprising and inventive of the ninth-century crosses is that at Irton, and here there are no surviving successors. The carver of that cross was more confident in his geometric patterns than in the intricacies of interlace or the formalities of plant-scrolls, but he achieved a surface richness and variety of effect which is unsurpassed on any other monument in this region. When the Vikings gained control of Cumbria in the tenth century, it is obvious that they encountered a lively and varied sculptural tradition and, as can be seen from such monuments as Waberthwaite 2 or Penrith 2, interlace patterns, small scale figures (such as are apparent on the cross-head of Irton 1), and exotic bipeds, all continued into the Viking-age repertoire. Moreover, the plant scrolls which, as has been shown (see pp. 15–17), are the most prominent Anglian motif, retain their importance in a transmuted form in the spiral-scroll school (see pp. 35–6).

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