Volume II | Chapter 1 | Earlier Research Next Back to catalogue index
by Richard Bailey, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Local patriotism might justly claim that the study of English pre-Norman sculpture began in Cumbria. As early as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries travellers and antiquarians, such as Camden, Pennant and Stukeley, had been intrigued by the runes of the Bewcastle cross and the legends which surrounded the 'Giant's Grave' monuments in Penrith churchyard (Camden 1607, 644; Pennant 1771, 219, 267–72; Stukeley 1776, ii, 46). As other parts of the region became more accessible in the nineteenth century, so further Cumbrian carvings began to figure in topographical publications. Their significance and their interpretation would, however, have remained obscure had it not been for the appointment of the Reverend W. S. Calverley as curate at Dearham in 1874. Here he found himself the guardian of one of the few Viking-age crosses which had survived unscathed into modern times (Dearham 1). As an artist, he became fascinated both by this carving and by other sculptures which were then emerging from the fabric of local churches in the extensive restoration work which characterized the late Victorian period (Calverley 1899a, vi). He embarked on a vigorous campaign to record, preserve and study these sculptures and, through his work, made fruitful contact with scholars like Professor G. F. Browne at Cambridge and Professor George Stephens in Copenhagen. Locally he entered on a productive partnership with Dr Charles Parker of Gosforth and it was in Gosforth in 1882 that he first demonstrated the presence of Scandinavian mythology amid the decoration of the great churchyard cross, an analysis which remains a turning-point in the study of early medieval sculpture in England (Calverley 1883b, idem 1883c).

Calverley did not live to complete the corpus of Cumbria's sculpture which he had envisaged but his notes and articles were published posthumously under the editorship of his friend W. G. Collingwood (Calverley 1899a). Calverley's role as the leading exponent of this material was then taken over by Collingwood, who always acknowledged his debt to his predecessor's pioneering scholarship. Collingwood's own major contribution to the subject lies in the papers he produced on Yorkshire sculpture, but throughout his life he published work on the Cumbrian carvings, and crosses and slabs from the area figured prominently in his 1927 synthesis Northumbrian Crosses of the pre-Norman Age. It was also in large measure due to his influence that monuments from the region were highlighted in the four seminal studies of Anglo-Saxon art published in the inter-war years (**Brøndsted 1924; Clapham 1930; Brown 1937; Kendrick 1938).

Since 1945 Cumbrian carvings have frequently been discussed in relation to work from Scandinavia, the Continent and the rest of the British Isles (notably in Kendrick 1949; Shetelig 1954b; Wilson and Klindt-Jensen 1980; Bailey 1980; Wilson 1984). But Calverley's 1899 book has remained as the only available published study of the area's sculpture and, inevitably, it no longer provides either a comprehensive gazetteer or an adequate discussion of the carvings. These are now provided by the present volume, whose origins lie in Bailey 1974a, a University of Durham doctoral dissertation, which offered a fully illustrated description and bibliography of all Cumbria's pre-Norman carvings together with a detailed study of the Viking-age material. With the publication of this second volume of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture Calverley's original plan is thus finally realized.

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