Volume V | Chapter 6 | The Date and Stylistic Context of the Reculver FragmentsNext Back to catalogue index
by P. Everson and D. Stocker

Nothing survives in standing fabric or detached detailing of the county's documented early monastic sites, or of royal chapels or episcopal churches. Nothing certainly remains of the church founded in the early seventh century by Paulinus in Lincoln. Whether the early church in Lincoln's Roman forum excavated on the site of St Paul-in-the-Bail is late Roman or later in date (Jones 1994), the excavation produced no architectural sculpture to illuminate our understanding of its superstructure. The same was the case with the equally comprehensive excavation of St Mark in Lincoln (Gilmour and Stocker 1986). Of fittings, there are only South Kyme 1 (Ills. 339–45) and – less certainly – Redbourne 1 (Ill. 314), both interpreted as parts of shrines and showing connections as early monastic furnishings respectively south to Peterborough and north to Yorkshire in both their form and decoration.

Decorated architectural fragments lying outside the overlap grouping (see below) are few in number. They are nevertheless very distinctive types of monuments, and, whereas from the later eleventh-century onwards architectural decoration might be expected of an ecclesiastical building of any status, these appear to be confined to those of more senior status.

Of pre-eminent importance is the survival of one wall of the ninth-century church at Edenham, with its pair of decorative roundels integrated with a string-course (Edenham 2a–b; Ills. 168–9). The south wall of the nave at Edenham was identified by Dr Harold Taylor as being of Anglo-Saxon date and it was he who suggested that the two remarkable roundels set under the eaves in the north-east and north-west corners of the later medieval south aisle were original decorative panels in situ, that ornamented its exterior (Taylor and Taylor 1963). Exceptional though this survival is, this claim does seem to be correct, although further work on the fabric is badly needed. The roundels may be survivors from either end of a series of such panels decorating the outside of the south elevation of the church, perhaps alternating with window openings; a possible reconstruction is made in Fig. 17. In this, the presence of a porticus towards the eastern end of the surviving wall is surmised from the unconformity of the relationships of the two panels to the string, which may suggest that the string was interrupted in between the two panels. If this is a correct assumption, then the more overt cross form of the eastern roundel might be seen as an appropriate distinction for the sanctuary, as compared with the nave. The ground-plan of such a building would be similar in general terms to several other minor churches of the early ninth century, for example Bishopstone in Sussex, Britford in Wiltshire, Ledsham in west Yorkshire (Gem 1993a) and Taplow in Buckinghamshire (Stocker and Went 1995). A ninth-century date places the building at Edenham chronologically mid-way among the small number of other surviving English churches decorated with applied external panels of sculpture in this distinctive way. Breedon-on-the-Hill in Leicestershire is earlier, probably of the late eighth or early ninth century, and some of the panels at Fletton may also come from a similar scheme to Breedon's. The later analogies lie with Barnack of the early tenth century, where the integrated combination of individual panels with a string-course and strip-work of rectangular section (Ill. 489) makes the link with Edenham appear the closer, and Earls Barton in Northamptonshire, where the late tenth- or early eleventh-century tower also has a circular panel decorated with a cross on its south face. Gem (1991, 817–19) suggests that such external wall panels may have continued in use into the eleventh century. All of these examples are in eastern Mercia and might be seen as a tradition of architectural decoration in the region, even if there is a wider international context for friezes of this type (Jewell 1986).

Other architectural panels either carry inscriptions (see John Higgitt's commentary in Chapter 7), or are devotional and/or dedicatory in character. A feature of the former category is their invocation in different ways and at different dates of a relationship with the Roman past, in language and setting in the case of Caistor 1 (Ills. 79–80) and Unknown Provenance 1 (see the catalogue entries), in its deliberate choice and ostentatious display of a pagan Roman gravestone with superimposed OE Christian inscription in the case of Lincoln St Mary-le-Wigford 6 (Ills. 273–5; Stocker with Everson 1990, 23–4).

In the latter category the gritstone figured panel at St Peter's, Barton-upon-Humber (no. 1; Ills. 17–18), whatever its subject, is clearly in situ and part of a late tenth-century church of special status. The Crucifixion, Ropsley 2 (Ills. 322–4), for all its crudeness and the possibility that it was reused from an older funerary monument, is also in situ on a building whose plan-form suggests that it may have been of senior pre-Conquest status, perhaps a minster church (see Chapter 8); and Cranwell 3 is a dedication cross in situ on long-and-short quoins (Fig. 26). By contrast, there is no reason to think of St Margaret at Marton as other than a parochial creation, and the Crucifixion panel there (Marton 6; Ills. 285–6) may for that reason as well as for its stylistic and iconographic aspects be rather more likely to be a post-Conquest rather than pre-Conquest devotional station. The proposed rood at Great Hale, indicated by Great Hale 1 (Ills. 185–6), may have been set over the west doorway of a church on this site which is earlier in date than the surviving tower. Like Marton, the status of this church is enigmatic, and, were it not for this sculpture, it would have little claim on our attention.

Other items are more directly architectural. They are the pair of gritstone label stops, one still decorated with a human head, at Barton St Peter's (Barton-upon-Humber 8; Ills. 31–3) and the baluster shafts from the tower windows and lower belfry openings there (Barton-upon-Humber 2–7; Ills. 19–30). These are carved rather than lathe-worked, with the result that they have a rather bulbous and lumpy profile (Fig. 24; Rodwell 1986, fig. 114). They stand in contrast to relatively thin and regular lathe-turned examples like the early examples at Hexham and Monkwearmouth (Cramp 1974; 1984, 128–9) and are akin to those in the tower at Earls Barton in Northamptonshire, also of late Saxon date. Balusters depicted in miniature on what may be an impost, Hough-on-the-Hill 1, appear to be of similar bulbous form (Ill. 204). Though it is a finely finished piece with decoration that includes an animal with affinities to the so-called Mercian beast (Ill. 205; Plunkett 1984, 102), it is the form of these balusters plus the likelihood that it formed part of the partially surviving pre-Conquest church on the site that makes a later pre-Conquest date probable. The church's west tower was originally a turriform or tower-nave church like Barton St Peter's, and of tenth- or eleventh-century date; ancillary evidence shows it to have been a church of senior or special pre-Conquest status. Decoration on the tower plinth, if it ever existed (Hough 4, see the catalogue entry), would be of the same date.

The standard literature on Anglo-Saxon architecture would lead to the expectation of a more substantial body of stone architectural sculpture catalogued and available for discussion within this volume. In such accounts Lincolnshire appears a similar county to Sussex, for example, where church buildings of the overlap period have been ornamented with sculpture which has been called Anglo-Saxon (Tweddle et al. 1995). There are, indeed, large numbers of such overlap church buildings in Lincolnshire, but it has been decided that the architectural sculpture they contain will be dealt with in the relevant volume of the Romanesque Corpus (see Chapter 1). These items are merely listed here through skeletal entries in Appendix E, that extend to nearly 70 catalogue entries covering both individual carvings and groups such as full sets of four belfry capitals. The towers themselves, however, have been studied as a by-product of the Corpus project and a separate publication has been prepared (Stocker and Everson forthcoming).

With only a few exceptions, the capitals from double belfry openings of the overlap period towers (Appendix E) are best understood as belonging to the last quarter of the eleventh and the earlier twelfth centuries. Their forms and detailing can be seen to derive directly or at a remove from the architectural innovations brought to the county by the construction of Remigius's new cathedral in Lincoln, that was begun after 1071 and not completed until c. 1090 or later. The architectural decoration of this seminal building is now represented by the early Romanesque capitals of the surviving west block. The exceptions – the group of elaborate and highly finished capitals which include Burton Pedwardine 4, Lincoln St Mary-le-Wigford 11 (W and S), and Lincoln St Peter-at-Gowts 2 (W and S) – are finer and perhaps earlier than the capitals on the cathedral's west front, but perhaps only to the extent that they may provide a hint of the decorative forms of the new cathedral's lost eastern parts.

This chronology is supported by those cases, such as Lincoln St Mary-le-Wigford and Lincoln St Peter-at-Gowts, where these towers are clearly later than the late pre-Conquest, stone-built, churches to which they are attached (Thompson 1907–8; Brown 1925, esp. xiv–xv; Stocker 1986b, 87). Furthermore, there are a number of instances where later tenth- and eleventh-century funerary sculpture is found recycled as building stone in the fabric of these towers, among them Glentworth, Lincoln St Mary-le-Wigford and Marton. Such a post-Conquest date for the towers is also in line with other recent analyses of this group of buildings (Rigold 1979; Fernie 1983, esp. 171–3; Gem 1984; id. 1986; id. 1988; Stocker 1987a; but see also Taylor and Taylor 1961; Taylor 1968), and with analogous structures elsewhere, as in north-east England (Cambridge 1994). If the proposition that these towers were built by Anglo-Saxon masons working in an Anglo-Saxon idiom (or even in a Norman idiom which was imported prior to the Conquest itself) is to be taken seriously, as is sometimes suggested, then firm evidence from outside the county for the existence of these chronologically Anglo-Saxon prototypes is urgently needed.

Apart from capitals, eleventh-century architectural sculpture in Lincolnshire is confined mostly to the so-called 'Jew's harp' motif, usually found decorating hood-mouldings, which has been termed 'an infallible guide to Anglo-Saxon date' (Taylor and Taylor 1966; Taylor 1978, 1058). It is regularly found in association with the late eleventh- and twelfth-century capitals and other detailing, as well exemplified in the cases of Brandon 1 (Ill. 492) and Coleby 3 and 4, and should clearly be dated along with them to the post-Conquest period. The probability that the early post-Conquest inscribed sundial, Stow 6 (Ill. 358), carried a dedicatory and perhaps patronage inscription specifically relating to the building campaign of c. 1090, with which architectural detailing is associated (Stow 10–11), adds notably to this picture.

Several Romanesque tympana have Anglo-Saxon affinities. Of these, that at Bishops Norton can be dated securely to the twelfth century, even if its subject is somewhat obscure (Binnall 1961), and those at Syston (no. 5, Appendix B) and at South Ferriby probably also belong to a similar period (Keyser 1883; 1927). The latter incorporates roundels containing crosses of type B6, as does Nettleton 1 (Appendix A, Ill. 418) in a different, local, stone type; but this probably illustrates only how long-lived some of these cross forms were, in architectural sculpture as much as in sepulchral monuments.

Kirton in Lindsey 1 illustrates a similar persistence of motif and has been called Anglo-Saxon (Appendix B). It is decorated with interlace, but of a quite distinctive type with a median line of pellets, and it is framed with sprays of typically Romanesque acanthus foliage. Even so, the reason why this apparently archaic decorative form was chosen to decorate the priest's door in this church may be significant, as a conscious attempt to evoke the antiquity of the church at Kirton, of whose early foundation otherwise there are few physical remains.

By comparison, the interlace on two further tympana, Rowston 3 and Haltham-on-Bain 1 (Appendix E, Ills. 493–4), is much cruder. Partly because of this, it is less easy to demonstrate that these sculptures are definitively of post-Conquest date. They look to be the creation of the same school, and carry a range of devices which occur on pre-Conquest items both locally and more widely, including the square knot as on Stoke Rochford 1 (Ill. 348), cable moulding and chevron carving like some of the mid-Kesteven covers, and crosses of type B6 (Cramp 1991, fig. 2). There are acanthus leaves in subsidiary locations on both, however, and Rowston 3 has a zone of chip-carved lozenges of post-Conquest type. Both are probably carvings of the late eleventh century, then; but if there really were Anglo-Saxon sculptors who were incapable of forgetting their training following the Conquest and adapting to the new Norman style, these tympana might be what their work would look like. Their horror vacui in the Anglo-Saxon manner, leaving no space unfilled, distinguishes them from later examples, like South Ferriby and Bishop Norton, or even from the simple contemporary chequerwork at Ludford Magna and Lincoln St Mary-le-Wigford.

There are also several smaller details carved into window tympana in the county. These are characteristically either simple motifs surrounding crosses, as Heydour 1 and Lusby 3 (Appendix E), or the crude animal sculptures of Barnetby-le-Wold 1 and perhaps a fragment at Martin-by-Horncastle.

The earliest fonts apparently also belong to this immediate post-Conquest period. The octagonal vessel at Barholm shares the motifs found on the tympana, and on some of the post-Conquest shafts discussed in Chapter 9. It is decorated with little roundels made of leaves of the same upright type found in the 'Jew's harp' hood-moulds, which also occurs on the imposts of the original south door of the church at Barholm (Barholm 1, Appendix E). This contemporary door, with the rood over it (Barholm 2), and font, belong to the end of the eleventh century in the period of early Norman architectural developments following the Conquest.

A total of perhaps eight other fonts in Lincolnshire have been described as Anglo-Saxon. Some are simply tubs with a cable or a double-cable moulding around their upper edges, as at Legsby and Old Clee. Some have, in addition, round-arched arcades (at Cabourne, Holton le Moor, Holton le Clay and Donington-on-Bain), and a few are undecorated but look 'old' (Scartho, Flixborough). The font at Waithe, which was also said to be Anglo-Saxon ((——) 1843–4, 139) and now has a run of three-strand plait in addition to an arcade of round-headed arches, appears wholly modern and at best a nineteenth-century copy of an ancient original.

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