Volume III | Chapter 11 | The Late Tenth and Eleventh CenturiesNext Back to catalogue index
by James Lang

The absence of late Viking styles and the incorporation of tenth-century sculpture in the primary fabric of eleventh-century churches in York and Ryedale are firm indications that the custom of creating stone monuments almost disappeared in the decades leading to the Norman Conquest. At Kirkdale and Helmsley (Ills. 552, 478) there are local versions of stopped-plait interlace, median-incised and consisting of L-shaped elements. This extreme simplification of interlace may be poorer quality work rather than stylistic degeneration over a generation or two. The pattern is associated at Kirkdale 4 with bold buckle-knots (Ill. 542) which are found at Sherburn across the Vale of Pickering in association with Anglo-Scandinavian ribbon beasts (no. 9; Ill. 791). That knot is also found in the South of England at Daglingworth, Gloucestershire (Kendrick 1949, 50), but not in a formalized ornamental context.

In York the crudest of cross-slabs, like that from Parliament Street (no. 2; Ills. 351–3) are known to have a pre-Conquest archaeological context, but they are so primitive as to prevent stylistic dating. Slightly more ambitious grave-covers from York, the Minster cover (no. 41), for example, adopt easy interlace patterns in place of animal ornament (Ill. 171). No. 41 seems to have been made for the very late pre-Conquest grave it covered, unlike the reused slabs elsewhere in the cemetery, so it is probably contemporary with the Durham group (Cramp 1984, i , 33), which also embraces interlace as its principal decoration, though the York work is crude by comparison. The same kind of eclecticism, in which patterns were directly inspired by existing monuments, may have operated with slabs like Kirkdale 7 (Ill. 558) serving as models. Certainly the two end-stones, Minster nos. 32–3 (Ills. 133–41, 143), derive from the cannibalized slabs of earlier generations (Lang 1978b, 152).

The eleventh century also saw a fashion in Eastern Yorkshire for inscribed sundials: Aldbrough, Kirkdale, and Great Edstone (Ills. 418, 568, 451) have very functional examples with hardly any purely decorative carving. The Kirkdale dial is dated by inscription to in or shortly after 1055–65. They should be seen as part of the great rebuilding of churches in the area and may in fact span the Conquest. The Weaverthorpe inscription (see Appendix B, p. 000) is certainly post-Conquest (Collingwood 1911a, 275–6; Bilson 1922, 57–9; see Chap. 12).

Clumsy workmanship has often been the criterion for assigning carvings to the eleventh century, an unreliable premise for dating. Most of these primitives do, however, reflect Anglian rather than Viking styles, perhaps responding to the English take-over in the middle decade of the tenth century.

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