Volume IV | Chapter 8 | The Excavated Sculptures from WinchesterNext Back to catalogue index
by Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle

One hundred and eight stones recovered from excavations in Winchester between 1961 and 1971 are considered here. They derive from two sites, the Cathedral Green (CG), and Lower Brook Street (BS). The former comprises: 70 pieces certainly associated with Old Minster and its cemetery and a further 29 which are probably so associated; and four pieces certainly or probably associated with the church of New Minster (New Minster 5–6 are certain, 2–3 probable), together with a further three (New Minster 1, 4, and 7) associated with Building E, one of the monastic buildings of New Minster. Two pieces were found in the excavations at Lower Brook Street, one (St Pancras 1) from the church of St Pancras, and a second (Lower Brook Street 1) which may originally have been from there or the church of St Mary.

It is impossible in some cases to be sure whether the stones from the Cathedral Green site came from Old Minster or New Minster (Fig. 26). Of the twenty-nine mentioned above as probably to be associated with Old Minster, four (Old Minster 1, 61, and 64–5) were found in burial earth below the south aisle or south porticus of New Minster. They may have been derived from New Minster church, but are more likely to have come from Old Minster or a building belonging to it. Three (Old Minster 37, 41, and 52) come from demolition debris deriving from either the baptistery, north facade, or facade chapels of Old Minster, or from the south wall of New Minster; these are more likely to have come from Old Minster than New Minster. Twenty-two come either from deposits later than c. 1200 overlying Old Minster (Old Minster 3, 11, 13, 20, 35, 43, 49, 55, 71, 78–9, 81, 91–6), or are unstratified (Old Minster 18, 48, 50, 66); they are probably but not certainly from Old Minster. The two stones probably from the New Minster church come from robber-trenches in areas where these cut through Old Minster demolition rubble; New Minster 2 and 3 might therefore derive from Old Minster. A single stone presumably derived from the New Minster cemetery (New Minster 1) was found in an early sixteenth-century deposit over the robbed New Minster domestic buildings (Building E).

In addition to the 106 stones included here there are 67 other Anglo-Saxon carved stones from the Old and New Minsters. These have only small, incomplete, or indistinct areas of moulding, already represented on the better preserved stones, or totally incomprehensible areas of carved surface. They add nothing to knowledge of Anglo-Saxon sculpture generally, but they do add, especially in their distribution, to an understanding of the minsters and their decoration, and will therefore be drawn into the discussion and catalogue entries as necessary, identified by their Winchester worked stone (WS) numbers. Uncarved stones with painted decoration are not included here (see Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1990a; idem 1990b; Oddy 1990; and below).

Many of the stones published here are badly broken, being merely the debris left behind from the dressing of the Anglo-Saxon stones for reuse in the construction of the Norman cathedral. In the circumstances it is often not possible to be sure which way up a stone should be seen. The growing corpus of comparative material will doubtless resolve some of these uncertainties, but in the meantime it must be recognized that the alignments adopted here for some of the more fragmentary pieces, however complex, can be no more than proposals.

Under the heading 'Evidence for Discovery' the phasing of the context in which each stone was found is given in the standard Winchester Studies format, followed by the date assigned to the final phase.9 In many cases this date bears no relation whatsoever to the date of the carving: it represents only the date of the deposit in which the stone came finally to rest, perhaps after many moves, and in which it was found in the course of excavation. As will be seen, these find-spots may even so be of considerable importance in elucidating the decoration of the destroyed buildings from which the stones originally came.


Known from the early tenth century as 'Old Minster' to distinguish it from New Minster (a separate foundation established immediately to the north in 901–3), the first church was built by Cenwalh (king of Wessex 643–74), possibly in 648 if the late authority of the F-version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is to be accepted, and dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. Initially apparently intended to serve as the chapel of a postulated adjacent royal residence, the church became a cathedral with the consecration of Wine as first bishop of Winchester in 660 (Earle and Plummer 1892–9, i , 28, ii , 22; Bede 1969, 232–5 ( iii , 7); Wallace-Hadrill 1988, 97–100). Although several times rebuilt and moved to an adjacent and partly overlapping site on the dedication of the eastern parts of the new Norman cathedral on 8 April 1093, the church has remained the cathedral church of the bishops of Winchester ever since.

The Anglo-Saxon foundation was the principal church of Wessex and afterwards of the late Anglo-Saxon state. Among the kings buried there were Cynegils (d. 643, translated from Dorchester on Thames?), Cenwalh (d. 674), Cynewulf (d. 786), Egbert (d. 839), Aethelwulf (d. 858, translated from Steyning), Alfred (d. 899, later translated to New Minster), Eadred (d. 955), Edmund Ironside (d. 1016, translated from Glastonbury?), Cnut (d. 1035), and Harthacnut (d. 1042). Egbert may have been consecrated in the church in 828; Edward the Confessor was crowned there on Easter Day 1043. Every Easter they were in England from 1068 until its demolition in 1093 (and afterwards in the new Norman church) William the Conqueror and William II seem to have worn their crown in Old Minster. Following the translation in 971 of the body of St Swithun (bishop 852–62) from his original burial place outside the west door of the first church, Old Minster became a place of pilgrimage, 'the old church all hung from one end to the other on each wall with the crutches and stools of cripples who had been healed there' (Ælfric 1966, 79, lines 359–61).

The community, in origin probably a group of priests and clerks, later of secular canons, living under a rule and forming the familia of the bishop, was reformed as a regular Benedictine house by Aethelwold (bishop 963–84) on the eve of the first Sunday in Lent, 964. Thereafter Old Minster played a leading role in the movement of monastic reform. It was probably the scene c. 971 of the promulgation of Regularis Concordia, the rule under which the monks and nuns of England were henceforth to live, and its monks were sent out to rule several of the refounded or newly founded houses. During the latter part of the tenth century Old Minster became one of the principal centres of English intellectual, literary, and artistic achievement.

The site of Old Minster was identified in 1962–3 and completely excavated in 1964–9, apart from those parts which lay close to or beneath the nave of its successor, the present cathedral. The first church was built on top of a street running along the south side of the forum of Roman Venta Belgarum. It was a cruciform building with rectangular north and south porticus and a square east end. From the later seventh century burials were made around the church and in the early to mid eighth century St Martin's tower was built to the west, a detached axial structure probably designed to serve as a gatehouse to the cemetery and cathedral complex. The east porticus was remodelled shortly afterwards to provide an enlarged triumphal arch and a lengthened apsidal termination.

New Minster was built close to the north side of Old Minster at the beginning of the tenth century. Old Minster responded early in the century with the addition of a massive western facade, to the rear of which chapels were soon added. Following the translation of St Swithun in 971 a double-apsed building was erected around the site of his original tomb between the west end of the seventh-century church and St Martin's tower. For some reason this vast structure had a short life. Within a few years the church was almost entirely reconstructed on a monumental scale by bishops Aethelwold (d. 984) and Aelfheah (translated to Canterbury 1006). The original seventh-century nave was heightened and the double-apsed martyrium was rebuilt as a rectangular westwork of ultimately Carolingian inspiration (cf. Corvey on the Weser) and dedicated in 980. The east end was then greatly extended to provide a new eastern apse with an aussenkrypta. The high altar was raised over a second crypt and flanked to north (and presumably to south) by lateral apses. These works were dedicated in c. 993–4, but were destined to last for only a century.

By the year 1000 Old Minster was a vast and richly decorated church. Over 76 metres (c. 250 feet) in length and (as reconstruction studies suggest) reaching in its westwork a height of between 50 and 60 metres (164 and 197 feet), the church was crowned by bells (Biddle 1990a, 100–24) and decorated with wall paintings (Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1990a), with coloured and probably painted window glass (Biddle 1990a, 350–92), with relief-decorated polychrome floor-tiles,11 and with the moulded stonework and architectural sculpture which is the subject of the present work.

Following the dedication of the eastern arms of the Norman cathedral in 1093, Old Minster was abandoned and demolished to make way for the new nave. Its buildings provided stone for the new cathedral and the eastern part of its site was used as a works yard for dressing stone and casting bells. The area of the former westwork was surfaced in pink brick-filled plaster to provide a memorial court around a free-standing monument erected over the site of St Swithun's original tomb. This court lay between the new Norman cathedral to the south and the nave of New Minster to the north. To the east it seems to have been closed by the ruins of the seventh-century west front of Old Minster and by the facade wing added to the north in the early tenth century, both left standing to provide a screen between the works area to the east and the memorial court to the west. A number of stone coffins which had originally stood within the westwork were preserved in situ in this court, and deep below it were reinterred more than 1100 bodies disturbed in the construction of the new cathedral.


The novum monasterium, New Minster, was founded in 901–3 by Edward the Elder (king of Wessex 899–924) alongside the cathedral, henceforth Old Minster. New Minster was built in the form of an aisled building with shallow transeptal porticus and was probably intended to be the burh church of the newly refounded town, but it served also from the start as the burial church of Edward's family, the body of his father Alfred (d. 899) being translated from Old Minster on the completion of New Minster in 903.

The building history of New Minster is relatively simple by comparison with Old Minster. The foundation and construction of the church and monastery was followed by a dedication in 903 to the Holy Trinity, St Mary, and St Peter. A work begun by Edmund (king of Wessex 939–46) in memory of his family, possibly an eastern burial chapel dedicated to the Saviour, seems to have been completed only after Edmund's death. The reformation of the house by Aethelwold in 964 was followed by the enlargement of the precinct and the remodelling of the conventual buildings on regular lines. Finally in c. 980–8 an elaborately decorated tower was built by Aethelred (king of England 978/9–1016), its exterior apparently embellished by carvings which may have reflected the dedication of the six storeys(?) (segmenta).13

The conventual buildings of New Minster were destroyed by fire in 1065 and the western part of its precinct was appropriated after the Conquest for the extension of the royal palace. Faced with unhygienic conditions on a now impossibly cramped site, the foundation was moved c. 1110 to a new location at Hyde outside the north gate of the city.

Very limited excavations on the site of the New Minster church were undertaken in 1963–8 (Biddle 1964, 210–11; idem 1965, 257–8; idem 1966a, 325–6; idem 1967a, 272; idem 1968, 280; idem 1969, 316–17). A single line of trenches was cut from south to north across the nave in 1963 and in 1964–8 the south-west angle and much of the south wall of the nave and south porticus were examined over a length of 42 metres (138 feet). These foundations delineate what, in the context of the early tenth century, 'seems to be the largest Anglo-Saxon church so far known to scholarship'.14 In 1970 a structure further east (Building E) was examined and shown to be part of the New Minster's domestic buildings, another part of which, at the northern limit of the precinct, had already been investigated in 1961 (Biddle and Quirk 1962; Biddle 1964, 206–7; idem 1972, 111–25). A small part of what might be the east end of the New Minster church, possibly an eastern extension, was encountered as part of the 1970 excavation of Building E (Biddle 1972, 122 (Trench XLI), figs. 7–8).


By the time of its demolition in c. 1093–4 Old Minster was a large and complex church of many periods. Although some of these building periods are both historically documented and archaeologically identified, others, even such major works as the construction of the western facade with its attendant chapels or the double-apsed martyrium around the tomb of Swithun, are without any known surviving documentary evidence. It is unlikely that all such alterations and additions were identified in excavation, for above-ground changes would have left no trace in the excavated foundations (although they may have left traces among the loose finds such as the carved stonework dealt with here), while additions requiring only shallow foundations, or set upon existing floors and foundations, would have been obliterated in the thorough robbing of virtually every piece of reusable stonework. Architectural fashions and art styles covering the whole period from the mid seventh to the late eleventh century may thus have been reflected in the building from which 99 of the 108 stones presented here were recovered. None of these was found in situ.

The excavation of a robbed structure presents its own particular problems, but the sequence in which the walls were robbed as well as the sequence in which they were originally built can be worked out, even where the foundations themselves have been removed for reuse of their materials.15 When foundations have been completely removed, only robber-trenches remain, and these are usually back-filled with rubbish left over from the demolition: mortar; plaster; stone chips; and originally no doubt large quantities of wood and other organic materials now decayed away. The fill of robber-trenches usually falls into three parts. The bottom, primary, fill, is often the result of the workmen throwing behind them what was not wanted, sometimes covering stubs of wall and stone fragments missed in the general muddle. Before this stage was reached the standing walls had been demolished to floor level, leaving heaps of rubble on the floors. This rubble had to be cut through to get at the foundations and thus often flowed over the edge into the robber-trenches. In the third, final, phase, what remained would in any case later be cast into the robber-trenches while tidying up the site, or to get at the floor paving, if this had not been removed at an earlier stage.

The primary and secondary fills of robber trenches can often not be distinguished; they are in fact part of the same process. The final filling is, however, sometimes quite different. This was clearly seen in the distinction between the upper fills of the robber-trenches to east and west of the ruins left standing after the demolition campaign of c. 1093–4. To the west, under the pink plaster surface of the memorial court, the upper fills were much darker and less rubbly, and the thick layers of masons' chippings found extensively east of the standing remains were absent. It seems clear that this area was being prepared for the display of the new monument over St Swithun's tomb and the surrounding stone coffins.

To the east, hidden by the standing ruins of the former west front and facade of Old Minster, a works area was created. Here there were massive layers of oolite stone chips where the Norman masons had knocked off the unwanted projections of the Anglo-Saxon mouldings and carved surfaces to give a flat face on at least three sides of a block. Sometimes large areas of Anglo-Saxon carving survived, as Old Minster 49 shows. Hundreds of such blocks must still remain within the fabric of the present cathedral, some perhaps reused on several subsequent occasions, and some probably to be discovered from time to time in the course of works. Further east still, beyond the layers of chippings there were two bell foundries. Their pits were cut down through the filled robber-trenches of the tenth-century east end, and the walls of the furnaces were built of reused Anglo-Saxon stones, some of them carved (for example, Old Minster 47).

During the reconstruction of Old Minster in the late tenth century, parts of the building were pulled down and their foundations removed, leaving behind only robber-trenches filled with loose rubble. A century later these robber-trenches were themselves cut into by the primary robbing of 1093–4. The rubble fills of these first Norman robber-trenches were cut into again about a year later as further parts of the building were removed, or foundations previously left in position were grubbed out. New Minster was demolished c. 1110. The still standing ruins of Old Minster, comprising the west end of the seventh-century nave flanked by the northern facade added in the early tenth century, were not finally demolished and robbed out until the middle or later part of the twelfth century. The demolition and robbing of Old Minster had thus taken at least half a century to complete.


The archaeological contexts of the 106 stones from the Old and New Minsters catalogued here are summarized in Table 2, which shows that nearly 90 per cent of the stones were found in demolition deposits or in later layers. Of the twelve stones from Anglo-Saxon contexts, two (Old Minster 31 and 63, the latter with pelleted interlace) come from contexts earlier than c. 903, and the remainder from contexts later then c. 903 but earlier than c. 1093 (Old Minster 16, 61, 64–5, 75–6, and 85, plus the grave-markers and -covers, Old Minster 1–2 and 6). In the latter group there are another two fragments with pelleted interlace (Old Minster 61 and 64), as well as two other stones (Old Minster 1 and 65), which come from layers in the south aisle and porticus of New Minster and which in origin may pre-date the construction of that church in c. 903.

With nearly 90 per cent of the stones coming from demolition deposits or from later layers, it becomes vital to ask whether those found in any one robber-trench are related to the particular part of the building which stood there. When the distribution of the various other types of building material is looked at, it is clear that there was no great redistribution of rubble around the site. For example, the pink plaster known as 'somp' is characteristic of the western part of the site and is hardly to be found at the east end (Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1990a). The 350 fragments of glazed floor tiles show a different but equally striking distribution with 50 per cent from the area of the westwork, 47 per cent from the area of the nave and high altar, but only three per cent from the east end, and none from elsewhere in the building.

This does not, of course, mean that none of the larger stones was taken from the westwork into the works area to the east of the standing ruins for redressing. Although only five of the stones are from Norman levels over the westwork (Old Minster 7, 39, 46, 53, and 84), two of the most important fragments from Anglo-Saxon contexts come from this area (Old Minster 75 and 85), as well as the spectacular pieces from the post-Norman layers (e.g. Old Minster 3, 66, 71, 91–4). Whatever happened to the major carved stones from the Anglo-Saxon westwork in the Norman period, they are not likely to have reached the eastern works area (if that is where they went) before the robber-trenches in that area were filled. The layers of masons' chippings covering this area never dip into or merge with the fills of the robber-trenches; instead they fill only the upper depressions and seal the robber-trenches.

The distribution pattern of the carved stone fragments (Fig. 27) shows that there is a remarkable concentration, especially of elaborate string-courses, in the robbing deposits of the baptistery (Old Minster 36–7, 40–1, 54, 74, 82–3, and 86–7). Figure 27 also shows that carvings with large floral elements in the Winchester style (Old Minster 67–70 and 72) occur almost exclusively in the eastern apse, the single exception (Old Minster 71) being found reused in a thirteenth-century boundary wall at the west end of the site. The distribution of grave-markers and grave-covers also suggests that there had been little movement of rubble about the site, for, with the exception of those from New Minster (New Minster 1–2) and an Old Minster grave-marker from beneath New Minster (Old Minster 1), they were all found either at the east end of Old Minster, where they came from the eastern cemetery and perhaps from graves in the crypt itself (Old Minster 2, 4–6, and 95), or at the west end, where they presumably came from the western cemetery (Old Minster 3, 92–4).

It seems clear that the standing walls of Old Minster were demolished with care and the major stones set aside for reuse. Some, however, were missed or lost in the general confusion of the robber-trenches. These, and the much larger number of small fragments removed and abandoned in the course of dressing the stones for reuse, and their distribution across the site of the demolished Old Minster (Fig. 27), allow the following hypotheses to be advanced.

1. The baptistery of Old Minster was richly decorated, apparently with elaborate string-courses, including dentils and twisted columns and cables, as well as with figured sculpture which may have included the head of a dove (Old Minster 74). The surviving fragments suggest that sculpture from the earliest, seventh-century, stage of the church had survived here throughout its history.

2. Figure sculpture was a feature of the decoration of several phases of Old Minster. Large-scale sculpture of this kind was probably present in the nave before — perhaps long before — the mid ninth century (Old Minster 75); it also occurred in the tenth-century rebuilding of the nave (Old Minster 76–7, 80, and 86) and in other later tenth-century contexts, in the double-apsed building constructed around St Swithun's grave (Old Minster 85), the westwork (Old Minster 84 and perhaps also 91), and the east end (Old Minster 81 and 88).

3. When the New Minster was built, carving with pelleted interlace, either from Old Minster or one of its associated buildings, or from some funerary structure, was already present on the site (Old Minster 61, 63–4).

4. Winchester-style acanthus carving was a feature of the eastern apse of Old Minster constructed between 980 and c. 993–4 (Old Minster 67–70 and 72).

5. The cemetery east of Old Minster was characterized by elaborate stone grave settings (Old Minster 2 and 6 (found in situ together), 4–5, and 95).

6. The cemetery west of Old Minster was characterized by grave-markers with stylized crosses (Old Minster 92–4), but contained at least one more elaborate marker (Old Minster 3).


Tables 3 and 4 show the types of stone represented among the 108 carved pieces found in excavation and catalogued here.16 Combe Down Oolite provides over four-fifths of the whole material: 86.2 per cent of the architectural mouldings and sculpture from Old Minster, all those from New Minster, and 55.3 per cent of the grave-markers. The other stone types represented among the Old Minster fragments are numerically insignificant, even if individually interesting. The grave-markers by contrast drew substantially on at least one and possibly two stone types other than Combe Down Oolite: Quarr accounts for 26.7 per cent of all grave-markers compared with 2.7 per cent of all architectural stones, and Binstead is used only for markers. The relative variety of stone types appearing in the grave-markers is reflected another way: 44.7 per cent of the grave-markers are not Combe Down Oolite compared with only 13 per cent of the architectural stones.

Both the stratigraphic and the stylistic dating of the architectural pieces shows that the Combe Down Oolite quarries near Bath provided the bulk of the stone used for architectural mouldings and decorative carving in the Old and New Minsters through the entire building period from the seventh to the tenth centuries, while the grave-markers suggest that the use of Combe Down Oolite remained significant throughout the eleventh century (Table 5). Among the architectural pieces, the use of Portland Stone seems to belong to the seventh century, and of Quarr to the later tenth or eleventh century; the other stone types are too rare to reveal any pattern (Table 6). The dating of the use of Quarr and Portland to the later and earlier limits of the period emphasises the overall dominance of Combe Down Oolite.

The appearance of Quarr at the end of the Anglo-Saxon period suggests the opening of quarries on the Isle of Wight towards the end of the tenth century. The Winchester evidence indicates that Quarr was perhaps used at first particularly for the manufacture of grave-markers, but it was soon providing stone for architectural features, as the Late Saxon and Saxo-Norman churches of Hampshire and Sussex amply demonstrate (Jope 1964, 101–2, fig. 26). The use of Binstead Stone for grave-markers at just this period (Old Minster 2 and 6) is probably related to the opening of the Quarr Stone quarries, for the two stone types are found in very close proximity (Anderson and Quirk 1964).

Other less frequent stone types among the architectural pieces are probably the result of the reuse of materials first quarried in the Roman period: Portland Stone (apparently used here only in the seventh century), Calcaire Grossier (possibly also used early: Worssam and Tatton-Brown 1990), and perhaps Bembridge Limestone (used here in the late ninth century or earlier). The same may be the case with the remainder, the Great Oolite Group, the Lower Chalk, and the Purbeck marble, but these could all be Anglo-Saxon introductions, the Oolite as part of the Combe Down complex and the Lower Chalk from local quarrying. The single fragment of Purbeck marble is enigmatic (Old Minster 85). The abrasion required to polish the surfaces of this piece of figure sculpture demonstrates a knowledge of the techniques required to work Purbeck marble and where that knowledge existed there would have been no need to rely on recycled stone. If Old Minster 85 is correctly assigned to the late tenth century, as both stratigraphy and style suggest, it indicates the working of Purbeck marble in the Late Saxon period, on however small a scale.

The striking extent to which the Combe Down Oolite quarries near Bath provided the bulk of the stone used for architectural mouldings and decorative carving in the Old and New Minsters requires further examination. There are at least three good reasons why the quantity of Combe Down Oolite implied by the figures in Table 3 could not have been derived from the reuse of stone from the buildings of Roman Winchester. First, the stone types used in Winchester in the Romano-British period were varied, and included a good deal of sandstone and various limestones as well as oolitic limestone (Worssam forthcoming): any collection derived from this base would have shown much larger proportions of stone types other than Combe Down Oolite. Second, very few if any of the Roman stones seen in excavation begin even to approach the size of the blocks of Combe Down Oolite used in Old Minster, whether for the carved stones catalogued here (Old Minster 62 and 88; see no. 88, Discussion), the flagstones forming the floor of the east porticus of the seventh-century church (Biddle 1970, 315, pls. XLVII, XLVIIIa), or the Late Saxon stone coffins (Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle forthcoming a). Third, Combe Down Oolite was the principal dressed stone used in building the original Old Minster in the seventh century, as the stone dust and masons' chippings in the construction debris showed (ibid.). It was also the principal stone used for the architectural elements and carved work of the late tenth-century rebuilding, as the pieces catalogued here fully demonstrate. It seems quite unlikely that large reserves of Combe Down Oolite, unmixed with other stone types, were available for recovery from Roman buildings and reuse in the seventh century, for the building of New Minster in c. 901–3, and again for the reconstruction of Old Minster between 971 and 993–4. Availability and block size both suggest that the Combe Down Oolite used in the Old and New Minsters was obtained fresh from the quarries 80 miles away in the seventh century as in the tenth.

This conclusion concerns the fine freestone used for architectural details and sculpture (Old English wercstan). It confirms and extends the pattern of quarrying and long-distance transport of building stone in the Anglo-Saxon period first established in a pioneer study thirty years ago (Jope 1964), while serving perhaps as a partial corrective to the more recent view that quarrying is essentially a Late Saxon industry (Parsons 1990a, 3–9). There is no doubt that the majority of the building material used for the foundations, footings, and walls of the Old and New Minsters (Old English walstan) was of local origin. In the original construction of Old Minster in the mid seventh century this was predominantly reused tile, brick, concrete, flints, and green sandstone blocks recovered from Roman buildings. In the tenth century large quantities of freshly quarried chalk and flint were used, and at all periods available materials were reused from structures of any earlier date, as the vivid example of the ninth-century wall painting recovered from the foundations of the early tenth-century New Minster shows (Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1990b). But the evidence of the pieces catalogued here seems clearly to show that at all periods freestone for carved details, whether architectural or decorative, was normally obtained fresh from the quarry.


What seems to be a lewis-hole exists in face A of Old Minster 88 where it has been filled with pink plaster (see the catalogue entry). Although not seen on any of the other pieces in this catalogue, lewis-holes appear on at least one of the undecorated Combe Down Oolite blocks from the seventh-century Old Minster. The presence of lewis-holes is normally taken as a sure sign that a stone was quarried in the Roman period (e.g. Parsons 1990a, 6; Stocker with Everson 1990, 86, 88). The arguments which suggest that Combe Down Oolite was reaching Winchester freshly quarried throughout the Anglo-Saxon period would indicate, however, that the lewis may have been used in the Early Middle Ages. This might be explained by the presence of Gallic masons (as must probably be assumed for the construction of the seventh-century Old Minster), since so simple a device is unlikely to have fallen out of use in Merovingian Gaul. It is not clear whether its use continued, however, since Old Minster 88 may be a reused stone and could have formed part of the seventh-century church before being reused and carved in the early eleventh century.


One of the most remarkable finds from the excavation of the Old and New Minsters in 1962–70 was a painted stone which had been reused as rubble in the foundations of New Minster (Wormald 1967; Biddle 1967b; Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1990b; Oddy 1990). The painting was done in earth colours directly onto the stone without preparation of the ground. The stone had a raised border 28 mm high down its right edge, but was not otherwise shaped other than as a rectangular ashlar, and is not therefore included in this Corpus. Eleven other pieces of ashlar with paint either directly applied or on a white ground were also found, but being plain are also not included here.

Twenty-one of the sculptured stones catalogued here do, however, show traces of whitewash (Old Minster 7, 34, 36–8, 41–3, 52, 54, 60, 73–4, 76–7, 79–81, 83, 96, and NM 4), but in only one case does the whitewash carry paint (NM 4). In one other case red paint may have been applied directly onto the stone (Old Minster 43). A few stones show traces of plaster render, either on its own or additional to whitewash (Old Minster 26, 34, 43, 50, 54, 56, 70, and 73), in some cases clearly or probably secondary (Old Minster 26, 43, and 54). Close examination by the writers and others (e.g. Wilson 1985, 208) has revealed no other traces of paint, even in the deepest nooks and crannies of the carvings where it seems certain that paint would sometimes have survived had it ever been used at all extensively. In many cases the stones will have been buried from the moment of demolition, or lain around for only short periods before becoming incorporated in the fills of the robber-trenches and thus protected from exposure and weathering. Since there is clear evidence that painted surfaces have survived well in the buried environment of the site, the conclusion that paint was little used on the mouldings and carvings of Old Minster seems difficult to avoid.

The one stone with paint on whitewash (NM 4) comes from New Minster. So little of that church has been excavated that it is impossible to say whether this one piece suggests that New Minster was different to Old Minster in this respect. The painted stone, discussed above, discovered in the foundations of New Minster ante-dates that building and must therefore derive from the Old Minster or one of its associated structures, unless it comes from the short-lived monasteriolum of Grimbald which occupied part of the New Minster site before the foundation and construction of the church in c. 901–3. Only one stone from Old Minster may show paint similarly laid direct onto the unprepared surface of the stone (Old Minster 43).

Study of the wall-plaster from the Old and New Minsters has similarly suggested a restrained use of paint in the decoration of these buildings (Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1990a). Since window glass and polychrome-glazed floor tiles show that colour was not eschewed (see above), colour may have been brought to the walls by the use of hangings and curtains. This does not explain why the stonework seems to have been left essentially unpainted, or at most whitewashed.


9. For this phasing and the concepts involved, see Biddle 1990a, 14–23.

10. Quirk 1957; Biddle 1964; idem 1965; idem 1966a; idem 1967a; idem 1968; idem 1969; idem 1970; Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1972; idem 1973; Biddle 1975; Kjølbye-Biddle 1975; Biddle and Keene 1976, 306–13; Sheerin 1978; Biddle 1986, 18–25; Kjølbye-Biddle 1986; Biddle 1990a, 1181–91; Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1990a; Kjølbye-Biddle 1992; Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle forthcoming a; Lapidge forthcoming; Rumble forthcoming.

11. Backhouse et al. 1984, nos. 142–3. For the definition of 'Style 1a' and 'Style 1b', to which the tiles belong, see Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1988, 261–2.

12. For the building history of New Minster, see Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1990b, with further references.

13. Analysed in detail in Quirk 1961.

14. Gem 1991, 809. Foundations discovered below the nave of Canterbury cathedral early in 1993 appear to belong to a nave similar in plan and proportions to the nave of New Minster, but perhaps still larger.

15. Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1969 was written in the light of experience gained in the excavation of the robbed remains of Old Minster.

16. The Winchester stones had previously been identified by the late Dr F. W. Anderson, formerly of the Geological Survey of Great Britain (Anderson 1990; cf. Biddle 1990b). The 108 stones catalogued here were mostly re-examined by Dr Bernard Worssam specially for the Corpus, to ensure comparability with entries elsewhere in the volume. The discussion which follows is based on these 108 identifications, but the inclusion of the generality of the Winchester stones would not change the balance of the evidence presented in Tables 3 and 4.

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