Volume V | Chapter 4 | Style and OrnamentNext Back to catalogue index
by P. Everson and D. Stocker

The Anglo-Saxon sculpture of Lincolnshire does not represent, for the most part, the greatest aesthetic achievement, and fewer than half a dozen pieces regularly occur in wider discussions of the history of Anglo-Saxon art. The interest of the bulk of the county's stone sculpture lies in the more humble, more mass-produced, material of the later tenth and eleventh centuries, which are discussed in groups in Chapter 5 below. The style of sculpture in each of these groups is usually one of its defining characteristics and it is therefore considered in the discussion of the individual groups themselves. This section seeks to place the forms of ornament used in the more individual and decorative pieces in their wider stylistic context.


a. Interlace and animal types

If the small interlace fragment, Redbourne 1 (Ill. 314), of which little can be said, is excluded from consideration there are only three Lincolnshire monuments which retain pre-Viking interlace; two at Edenham comprising a total of four panels, and a single monument at South Kyme from which four panels of interlace survive along with one of fretwork and one of 'trumpet spirals'.

The fragments making up South Kyme 1a–f (Ills. 339–45) are interpreted as the side, or sides, of a shrine or casket (see the catalogue entry), finely decorated within a layout of square panels divided from each other by delicate mouldings. Their combination of animals enclosed by fine interlace, transforming into foliage at its tips, has long been recognised as distinctive of this region (Smith 1923–4), and seen to belong to a phase of ornamental development in the later eighth and early ninth centuries (Cramp 1977). Although the dating of the fragments has been controversial in the past because of the presence side-by-side of both presumptively early features, for example 'trumpet spirals', and later features like the inhabited foliate interlace, this need not be viewed as a problem. Both features occur on the whalebone Gandersheim casket, where very much the same range of motifs, and some strikingly similar details, are seen, within a very similar overall layout (Ill. 487). The Gandersheim casket has usually been dated to the later eighth century, and the most recent work has suggested an even later date still - of c. 800 or a little later (Webster and Backhouse 1991, 177).

The inscription on the base of the Gandersheim casket has been taken as evidence that it was originally made not far away from South Kyme, on the fen edge at Ely. However, this reading of the inscription has been rejected (Page 1973, 36; Webster and Backhouse 1991, 178), and the casket's stylistic links with the Hedda Stone at Peterborough are now stressed. South Kyme 1 also has quite close similarities with the Hedda Stone. The pitched roof of this shrine is also divided into rectangular panels by elaborately moulded borders, within which is complex interlace inhabited by superficially similar beasts to those at South Kyme (Smith 1923–4, fig. 4; Cramp 1977, fig. 57c). Unfortunately the damage to the Peterborough stone makes a more detailed comparison difficult, but the two objects are clearly closely related in date as well as function. The Hedda Stone is commonly discussed as part of a wider group of decorative sculptures at Breedon-on-the-Hill, Fletton and Castor, all of which share a similar style of interlace carving, with some similar foliate terminals. Points of similarity between various members of this group and the South Kyme fragments in these respects have often been the subject of analysis and comment.

The Witham pins (Ill. 488) are also decorated in a related style to the South Kyme sculptures; they were discovered in the river Witham at Fiskerton near Lincoln about fifteen miles to the north in 1826 (Wilson 1964, 132–4; Webster and Backhouse 1991, 227–8). Similarities between the inhabited interlace on the pins and South Kyme 1 are less marked than those between the latter and the Gandersheim beasts, but this is partly a result of the chip-carved technique used on the pins. The Witham pins are dated to the second half of the eighth century and attention has been drawn to the way in which leaf forms with small lobes are introduced into the inhabited interlace here (Webster and Backhouse 1991, 227–8), exactly as they are at South Kyme (fragment 1f; Ill. 340).

The stylistic links of the Witham pins lie otherwise with an important group of major art works of the later eighth century including the cross-shaft at Croft, Yorkshire, and the Leningrad Gospels (Alexander 1978, no. 39; Wilson 1984, 88–9, ills. 79, 110). With the exception of Croft, all of these objects have an eastern Mercian provenance, and it has been suggested that all are the product of a so-called Mercian School of craftsmen in a variety of media, based in the monasteries of Ely and Peterborough and their dependencies (Plunkett 1984). It has been argued (Stocker 1993, 112–13) that South Kyme was just such a monastic site, although neither its name nor its place in the Mercian monastic hierarchy are known. These connections between fen edge monasteries may be strengthened by the observation that the Fletton frieze and the Hedda Stone, like South Kyme 1, are carved in stone of Ancaster type.

The style of the interlace on three faces of the Edenham cross-shaft (Edenham 1) is entirely distinct from the interlace of this earlier group, though each face is also markedly different from the next. On face C (Ill. 165), the delicate and complex interlace based on an encircled pattern (not dissimilar to Cramp 1991, fig. 19C) seems to relate to Northumbrian models. However, this interlace is set within a vandyke, which suggests that the sculptor had knowledge of the round shafts of northern Mercia. Furthermore, towards the base are distinctive elongated heart-shaped leaves which are divided over their stems. These leaf types are similar to examples on several of the brooches from the hoard found at Pentney on the Norfolk fen edge (Ill. 490), which is currently thought to belong to the first third of the ninth century (Webster and Backhouse 1991, 229–31). They are also found in manuscript art in the copy of Bede's Ecclesiastical History in the British Library (BL MS Cotton Tiberius C.ii), which is also dated to the first half of the ninth century (Webster and Backhouse 1991, 215–17). Very similar leaf forms occur on the Fuller brooch, too, although this is usually thought to belong to the second half of the century (ibid., 280–1). The leaf type recurs, in the simplified form one would expect at its larger scale, in the monumental roundel which decorated the western end of the south wall of Edenham church (Edenham 2a; Ill. 168). The parallels for the leaf form, then, clearly place the shaft in an early or mid ninth-century stylistic context in pre-Viking eastern England.

The affinities of the so-called tangled vinescroll on faces B and D (Ills. 164, 166) are somewhat harder to ascertain. They are hybrids of a complex foliate scroll and intricate, well-organised interlace. Such tangled vinescrolls find their best parallels in sculpture in Yorkshire and the north-east, for example at Collingham in the West Riding (Collingwood 1915, 155–61) and at Norham on the river Tweed (Cramp 1978, 11–13), although there are quite close parallels in Leicestershire at Asfordby and less clear-cut similarities with the shaft at Rothley in the same county. Again, these are probably all ninth-century monuments. Similar vinescroll buds to those on the narrow faces of Edenham 1 are to be found also in contemporary manuscript painting, for example in the letter V in BL MS Royal I E.vi, fol. 43 and in the Cottonian Bede (BL MS Cotton Tiberius C.ii), both of which are dated to the first half of the ninth century (Plunkett 1984, 95).

All of these parallels strongly suggest a stylistic dating in the early or, perhaps, mid ninth century for the Edenham cross-shaft, a generation or two after South Kyme 1. Moreover, the details of foliage and interlace on the shaft suggest, despite the impression initially created by the tall hieratic figure on face A which seems to relate the shaft directly to the earlier Northumbrian cross-shafts (see below), that the shaft is in fact a hybrid, blending details drawn from the north Mercian shafts including some of the round-shaft types, and ornamental types from secular metalwork, with the Northumbrian tradition.

b. Figure sculpture

The Hough-on-the-Hill whetstone sceptre (no. 2; Ills. 209–14), carved fully in the round, is a powerful early sculpture, whose stylistic and formal analogies lie rather with contemporary late pagan metalwork, and perhaps with Antique models or wooden images relevant to its ceremonial and symbolic function, than with the Christian stone sculpture that succeeded it chronologically (see the catalogue entry).

Human figure sculpture is otherwise rare but not completely absent. Despite the interest and importance of the interlace on Edenham 1, it is the adornment of face A with a large, hieratic, full-frontal figure, depicted with competent naturalistic drapery, which is the principal decorative subject (Ills. 162–3). Such figures are more readily associated with the great early Northumbrian cross-shafts at Bewcastle and Ruthwell and their successors than with ninth-century Mercia. Although several Yorkshire crosses of this date have standing figures, they are rarely as large as that at Edenham. The only other monument in the eastern Midlands which has such similarities with earlier Northumbrian work is the cross-shaft at Nassington in Northamptonshire, where a large standing figure generally similar in character to the Edenham saint is now represented only by the lower part of the tunic, the legs and feet (Coatsworth 1988, pl. IIa). The rear of the Nassington monument is occupied with a repertoire of similar interlace to that on face C at Edenham whilst one side is decorated with a greatly simplified run of foliage, which may represent a debased version of those on the sides of the Edenham shaft. Below the figure on the Nassington shaft is a complete Crucifixion scene. Whilst acknowledging the stylistic analogies for this Crucifixion scene in the ninth-century Carolingian world, Coatsworth's recent assessment nevertheless places Nassington 'in the immediate aftermath of the Viking invasions' (ibid., 163, 171–2), that is at the end of the ninth century and presumably therefore following Edenham 1 in date.


a. Interlace types

There is a great deal of Anglo-Scandinavian interlace carving in Lincolnshire. The bulk of it is simple and repetitive, and it can only be understood when divided up into large groups and analysed by production centre (see Chapter 5 below). Only the stylistic context of those few monuments of the Anglo-Scandinavian period which do not fit into these large groups is considered here.

Foremost amongst these individual monuments is the cross-shaft, Crowle 1 (Ills. 144–50). The rather loose style of interlace that typifies this shaft may partly be a consequence of the coarseness of the stone, and its simple broad plait finds parallels throughout the Anglo-Scandinavian north-east, with many examples in Lincolnshire. The shaft's more complex and irregular Jellinge-derived interlacement with tail-devouring dragon's head and the distinctive run of two-strand interlace of 'slipped knot' form on the narrow faces, however, place the monument firmly in the Hiberno-Norse tradition of early tenth-century Cumbria and Yorkshire – a milieu which is confirmed by the more specific stylistic similarities between the figure sculpture at Crowle and these areas discussed below.

The interlace decoration on the remarkable pair of grave-covers from Hackthorn 1 (Ills. 187–9) and Lincoln City (Broadgate) 1 (Ill. 231) should also be mentioned here. These large covers are decorated with a range of details which are frequently met with, but which exceptionally include also remarkable interlace knots in the form of birds in the upper left and right quarters. These birds are related to early tenth-century bone-working and wood-working, but in their conception they derive from Borre-style metalwork (Wilson 1984, ills. 170, 173). This appears to be a direct Scandinavian influence, the Borre style being a specifically Scandinavian art style (Wilson 1976; 1978), and the potential implications of such contacts are considered below.

b. Figure sculpture

Face A on Crowle 1 carries the most complex figure sculpture in the county (Ills. 144–5), and its style and iconography point, like the interlace, unequivocally towards the Viking kingdom of York. The paired confronted birds at the top may be compared quite locally with those on the shaft at Nunburnholme, east Yorkshire (Pattison 1973; Lang 1977b; id. 1991, ills. 721–4). Certainly, in contrast to earlier suggested interpretations, the confronted male figures seen in profile below are more plausibly secular (Ill. 144). Unfortunately little detail is visible as the surface of the stone has been damaged, but enough survives to understand their genre. Although they are reminiscent of the pre-Viking secular pair from St Mary Bishophill Junior in York (Cramp 1982, 12, pl. 7; Lang 1991, 83–4, ill. 216), unlike these the Crowle figures are strictly in profile in the manner of Viking-period depictions, and are heavily bearded and with stylised hair. Lower on the Crowle shaft is the figure of a bearded horseman portrayed similarly in profile, and similarly damaged. Even though the specific iconographic meaning of these scenes is uncertain, this is evidently the secular figure of the warrior horseman that is a recurring image in the Germanic and Viking world, and perhaps harks back to earlier classical imagery (Cramp 1982; Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1985). The runic inscription below the horseman is set in the Norse manner within a curved ribbon (Ill. 150); its occurrence on the southern fringe of the principal distribution of post-650 runic monuments (Page 1973, 29 and fig. 7) confirms the northern cultural affiliations. The runes, however, are Anglo-Saxon not Scandinavian (see the catalogue entry).

With the exception of Crowle 1, there are only a few other examples of pre-Conquest figure sculpture in the county. They fall into two groups: crude, flatly carved, outline figures on Conisholme 1 (Ill. 100), Lincoln St Mark 5 (Ill. 242) and Great Hale 1 (Ill. 186), and several smaller, more well-rounded, doll-like figurines at Marton 6 (Ills. 285–6), Harmston 1 (Ills. 199–200), probably originally at Ropsley 2 (Ill. 322), and perhaps the inserted figure on face C of Edenham 1 (Ill. 167), though this may well be of post-Conquest date. The small figures on Lincoln St Mark 5 have a ring around their heads (Ill. 242), which could be interpreted either as hair or as a halo, but in either case they have similarities with sculptures across Anglo-Scandinavian England. Well-rounded figures like those from Harmston and Marton are perhaps somewhat rarer nationally. The shapes of these figures are more plastic, when compared to the Lincoln, Conisholme and Great Hale figures, and the clothed figures at Harmston have drapery indicated with heavy strokes. In these respects they invite comparison with later Anglo-Scandinavian monuments like the shaft from All Hallows Barking 1 (Tweddle et al. 1995, 218–22, ills. 320–42) and several late pre-Conquest Crucifixion plaques, such as those from Stepney in London (ibid., 229–30, ill. 354) and Daglingworth in Gloucestershire (Coatsworth 1988, 179, pl. Vb).

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