Volume II | Chapter 5 | Anglian-Period FormsNext Back to catalogue index
by R.J.Cramp

GRAVE-MARKERS AND GRAVE-COVERS (General Introduction, hereafter G.I., pp. xiv, xxi and figs. 4–7)

In this area one might reasonably expect some evidence for the survival of Christianity in the sub-Roman period in the shape of upright slabs with incised crosses or Chi-Rhos and simple inscriptions, such as one finds north of the Solway or in Wales (Thomas 1968, 100–3).

There is only one slab (Addingham 2) which has been assigned to the period before full Anglian control of the area, i.e. before the mid to late seventh century (Bailey 1960a). The Addingham stone is an example of what Thomas has called 'primary' cross-marked slabs, which are not likely to date from much before the end of the sixth century (Thomas 1968, 112–18). This view is maintained by Bailey, but he notes that 'In areas which were not subsequently dominated by the Angles there are examples of continued usage into the Viking period' (Bailey 1974a, i, 18–19). It is possible that in Cumbria, as in the Borders region further east, the British tradition of the tall, narrow, upright slab, marked with an incised cross, could have been maintained alongside the newer traditions of stone crosses, since Anglian fashions need not have been all-pervading. It is important to note, though, that such slabs are not found in areas where there is no tradition of the survival of the British church into the late sixth to early seventh century. Thus there are no such stones in Deira or in Bernicia south of the Tweed. However, until more slabs are discovered in well dated contexts in north Britain, their floruit must remain debatable (Cramp and Douglas-Home 1977–8, 227–9, pl. 13; Cramp 1984, 7).

The lost Knells slab, the only slab with an inscription from this region, can be indisputably assigned to a date after the Anglian take-over of the area. It is uncertain whether the Knells slab would have been upright or flat. It resembles the upright slabs of Pictland in the placing of the animals in the upper corners (Allen 1903, figs. 227b, 234a, 309; Bailey 1974a, i, 28, 284–5). However, it possibly makes better sense as a recumbent grave cover, since the birds are carved to be looked at from above, and the inscription would be upside down if viewed from below in an upright position. The incised cross shape is not an early one and it would be reasonable to place this in the late eighth to early ninth century.

Other smaller and simpler slabs, such as those from Bewcastle (no. 3), Cross Canonby (no. 3), and Crosthwaite (no. 1), could be either recumbent or upright head- or foot-stones. Such monuments are ubiquitous in their distribution in the north, as well as being very difficult to date. However, the lack of churchyard excavations in this area is perhaps one factor which explains the dearth of such simple memorials compared with the area east of the Pennines.

FREE STANDING CROSSES (G.I., p. xiv, and figs. 1–3)


In the Anglian period the monumental height and the square section of Bewcastle is unique in the region: the shafts of even the most elaborately carved Anglian pieces, such as Dacre 1 or Irton 1, are of the slab-like type (G.I., fig. 1b). A full range of shaft types does occur in Cumbria, however, even if usually represented by only one specimen. Type 1c, the stepped shaft, occurs at Addingham (no. 1) and 1d, the shouldered shaft, at Dacre (no. 2). Type 1e, the collared shaft, appears first with early Anglo-Scandinavian ornament at Bromfield (no. 2), and type 1g, the round-shaft derivative, at Beckermet St Bridget (no. 1). The two latter types are influential in the Viking period (see pp. 30–1).


The earliest group of cross-heads in Cumbria would seem to be the fragmentary heads from Carlisle, if one excludes the now lost head from Bewcastle. The three cross-heads from Carlisle (nos. 1–3) are of types A9 and A10 (G.I., fig. 2), and are interesting in the importance given to their inscriptions. The small scale of the heads can be paralleled at other monastic centres such as Lastingham, Yorkshire. The heads are neatly cut, and Carlisle 3, with its spine and boss surrounded by a zig-zag ornament, is to be compared to other early crosses which imitate the elaborate ornament of metalwork; such sculptural ornament is found at Jarrow (Cramp 1984, pl. 93, 497–9), Northallerton, Yorkshire, Heysham, Lancashire (Collingwood 1927a, fig. 116), and on a recently discovered piece from Hexham, Northumberland.1

The spine and boss motif is one that survives into the Viking period in Yorkshire as well as Cumbria, but in Cumbria not only survives in an elegant form at Penrith (nos. 4–5) but is also a significant attribute of the spiral-scroll school (see below, pp. 33–5).

The types of double-cusped heads, D9 or D10, which are a conspicuous early form east of the Pennines in Northumbria, do not occur at all in Cumbria, save on the lost slab from Knells, but the type B10, as on Irton 1, continues into the Viking period, as well as occurring on the base of the Ormside bowl (Brown 1921, pl. 30). The type E10, as at Kirkby Stephen (no. 6), also survives into the Viking age at Walton.


There are in this area eleven bases which are plausibly pre-Conquest, and five that seem to be of the Saxo-Norman overlap period. On undecorated bases it is often difficult to be certain of the contemporaneity of the shaft and socket, however, especially when over the years there must have been resetting or straightening of many monuments, and some from the beginning did not fit the sockets well (see Beckermet St Bridget 1). Obviously it is even more difficult to establish a date for a plain socket which is divorced from its shaft. (Several plain sockets noted in Cumbrian churchyards have not been included in the catalogue.)

The massive base of Bewcastle 1, which is a rough pyramid 117 cm (46 in) high, tapering to an irregular octagon with sides alternately 30.5 cm (12 in) and 46 cm (18 in), is unique in form. Even here there must be some doubt as to whether it was original, since it was noted at its restoration that a large portion of the shaft was broken off inside the socket (Ferguson 1893, 55). However, the simple pyramid form seems to be early on both sides of the Irish Sea (cf. Auckland St Andrew no. 1 in co. Durham (Cramp 1984, pl. 1) and Ahenny, co. Tipperary (Henry 1965, pl. 83)). Nevertheless, the Irish bases always have a tendency for the ornament to be divided into horizontal zones, and for the base block to be stepped in (for example, the north cross at Lorrha (Henry 1965, pl. 86)). Stepped bases such as these tend to be associated in Northumbria with the Viking period, as, for example, at Halton, Lancashire (Kendrick 1949, pl. XLII) or in Cumbria at Gosforth (no. 1).

The most common type of base is a plain, slightly tapering rectangle, as at Beckermet St Bridget, Irton (no. 1) and Waberthwaite (no. 2). Sometimes, as at Rockcliffe, the edges are slightly chamfered. Such plain bases continue into the overlap period at, for example, Brigham (no. 13) or Muncaster (no. 2). It is unusual to find round bases to hold round shafts, although those at Penrith (nos. 4 and 5) may be original, and the base of Warcop 1 could well have held a circular (but probably wooden) shaft.

There is one further type of base in Cumbria which seems to date from the tenth to eleventh centuries and which Richard Bailey has seen as distinctive of this area. These are decorated and rectangular, but have open sockets, and would have operated more like a collar to hold the cross steady in the ground or in another socket stone below. Addingham 3 is decorated with incised ornament, and Beckermet St John 7 and Brigham 9 are elaborately carved.


Cumbria has little surviving evidence for pre-Conquest stone churches, when compared with Northumbria east of the Pennines. The massive carved stones from Falstead and Dalston could have been lintels for a major building of some architectural pretensions but are not unambiguously of Anglian date. Another decorated architectural feature is the banded column now reset in the belfry openings of Morland church tower. It has also been suggested that Gosforth 6 is part of a narrative wall panel, and the late piece from Whitehaven (no. 2) could have been part of a decorative frieze. Stone furniture is almost non-existent, although the Kirkby Stephen half column (no. 3) might have been the support of a lectern, and the lost Workington inscription (no. 8) could well have been set in the walls of a stone church.

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