James Wilson.

The Victoria history of the county of Cumberland online

. (page 38 of 63)
Online LibraryJames WilsonThe Victoria history of the county of Cumberland → online text (page 38 of 63)
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To Jace page 271.

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The 'Warrior's Tome,' Gosfor

The ' Saint's Tome,' Gosforth.

To face page 271

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Hogback, Crosscanonby.

Dearham Cross.

To face page 271,


fleet did not appear and so he had to return by the way he came.
Without going so far as to attempt any identification, it is worth while
pointing out that he would have come round the north of Cumberland
towards Ravenglass for the purpose of finding his ships, and it is possible
that here at last the inhabitants, Northmen principally, made a stand.
But there must have been many a battle hereabouts in those days.

In 1897 another hogback was found under the north-east corner of
the nave, and called by Mr. Calverley the ' saint's tomb' because on its ends
there are figures of Christ crucified and perhaps Christ in resurrection.
On its sides are great serpents with human figures wrestling in their coils —
another rendering of the subject already noticed in the Penrith hogback,
the struggle of the seed of the woman with the serpent.

At Plumbland there are two fragments of a hogback which was
built into the church and carved by the early English mason into an
impost or springer for an arch with honeysuckle-moulded ornament
beneath. But the serpent is plainly seen on the walls of the shrine, and
at its ends a variation of the Triquetra which is so conspicuous at

To complete the series of Cumberland hogbacks that at Bromfield
may be mentioned, built above the Norman arch inside the west door-
way. It has a tegulated roof, but is too defaced and ill seen to illustrate.

At Aspatria is part of a very fine hogback, with elaborate roof and
sides carved into pilasters with rich interlacing. The band of step-
pattern at the eaves and the angular plait along the ridge seem to indicate
a rather later date.

At Cross Canonby is another hogback fairly complete, though its
sides have been defaced. It is of red sandstone, 6 feet i inch long, 2 1
inches high and 17 inches broad. It has at the gable-ends of the mimic
roof some remains of the beasts' heads which were common adornments
of hogbacks, perhaps in imitation of the trophies put up on the gables of
dwelling-houses of the time. The tegulation of the roof is curious, for
it is the same chain-pattern we have seen on the shaft of Gosforth cross
and referred to a Scandinavian origin.

Minor Scandinavian Crosses : Chain-Pattern

The same ornament is the chief feature of the Dearham cross,
which stood until 1900 in the churchyard, but after some injuries was
then put for safety inside the church. The western side bears out Mr.
Calverley's theory that the pattern is intended to represent a Tree of
Yggdrasil ; for there is the bole beneath, breaking into branches among
which are two birds, and ending in curled twigs at the rim of the wheel-
head. On the other side from a coil of roots four stems shoot up through
an arch, which may possibly be intended for the rainbow, the bridge of
the gods by which they descended from heaven ; and above it is another
entanglement of branches. The idea of the artist may have been to sug-
gest, as on so many of these gravestones, the hope of life to come, here



using a new symbol, which however would be understanded of the people
whether heathen or Christian.

With Dearham cross may be classed the fragments of a head at
Gilcrux church. The boss is six-petalled, like one of the Carlisle
cross-heads we have noted as Anglian, but the identity of pattern is of
far less importance than the identity of treatment ; and here we see inter-
lacing of a type unlike the Anglian, but like these works which we group
together as late and Scandinavian (tenth and eleventh century and Irish-

In Muncaster churchyard is another low broad cross with a new
variety of the chain-pattern on its face and flatly treated braids on the
back and edges. Under the main design at both front and back is a
simple step-pattern ; compare the Aspatria hogback. A wheel-head lies
now beside it, possibly its own ; but the socket recently added could not
have fitted this cross, and shows that there were more than one such
monument at Muncaster.

The same variety of chain-pattern is seen on the edges of two crosses
at Bromfield and Rockcliffe churchyards, both rudely hacked or picked
sculptures, but remarkable in having broad raised bands running horizon-
tally round the shafts. It has been suggested that this indicates an
original imitation of basket-work in these interlaced crosses, but we
can trace the development of their various styles from the Bewcastle
cross and the development of that from an adaptation of sixth and seventh
century Greek-Italian art to the standing-stones of the British Christians.
It is still possible however that in the search for variety artists then as
now introduced new ideas by imitating work properly intended for other
materials, and that basket-work, as well as illuminated manuscripts, metal-
work and wood-carving, was sometimes copied. Only this does not
account for the origin of the interlaced crosses as some have supposed.

The Bromfield red-sandstone cross has lost its head, but the Rock-
cliffe cross is complete. It is unusual in this county, because though a
wheel-cross it is not four-holed ; the spaces between the arms are merely
counter-sunk, not pierced. On the bands are grotesque figures of ani-
mals, which lead us to a new class of later monuments, those with beasts,
birds, snakes and human figures, drawn clumsily and with none of the
correctness and dignity of the fine early Anglian work, but resembling
Irish art in MSS. and sculpture.

Later Zoomorphic Sculptures

The Dacre stone, a shaft preserved in the church, was a low broad
cross, bearing at the top a figure almost identical with the animal turning
its head over its back, supposed to be the lamb treading on the serpent,
seen on the Fishing stone. There is a much weathered figure in the same
attitude on one of the crosses of the Giant's Grave at Penrith. The
stag, seen at Penrith and with the dog or wolf on the Gosforth standing
cross, is here seen with the dog or wolf on its back. At the bottom is



RocKCLiFFE Cross.

Dacre Cross.

To face page 272.


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Waberthwaite Cross.

To face page 273.


the scene of the Temptation : Adam and Eve with the tree of Eden and
the serpent. The two figures taking hands over a sqi^are object like an
altar or font have been thought to represent king iEthelstan and king
Constantine, who made a treaty ' at the place which is called Eamot on
the 4th day before the ides of July,' July 12, 926, says the Anglo-
Saxon Chronicle. This however is doubtful. We can see that the sculp-
ture is similar to that which we have classed under Scandinavian influence
and that it has some features recalling the spiral Cumbrian style in the
curled accessories of the design. We must place it with the Giant's
Grave as a transition-form on the brink of the Irish-Norse style. It may
be tenth century, and it is possible that it is the grave of some such per-
sonage as Owain, king of Cumberland, but we must leave the two figures
at present uninterpreted.

The Red Shaft, Cross Canonby.

A shaft re-erected by Lord Muncaster in Waberthwaite churchyard
is all interlaced, with the open plaitwork which became more common
at the end of the eleventh and in the twelfth century. Interlacing of
the best period of this art was usually tight, showing very little ground.
This is rudely hacked, not chiselled, and yet designed with some attempt
at symmetry. Among the interlacing is the figure of a horse seen also
at Halton, Lancashire, on a late eleventh century cross.

The wilder character of this Irish-Norse art is brought out in the
standing cross at Aspatria, a red sandstone shaft 4 feet 6 inches high,
from which the head is lost, though it is still possible to trace the curve
of a wheel-cross, like those of Dearham and Gilcrux. Three sides bear
interlacings, fairly regular, but clumsy in drawing and roughly hacked
out ; the fourth side has a wild entanglement without symmetry, but no
I 273 T


less ingenious in the following-out of the strands through a wonderful
cobweb maze. Beneath this is a beast with its head turned over its
back, but ruder and wilder than the similarly posed creatures at Dacre
and Gosforth.

Still wilder are those on the red shaft at Cross Canonby, beasts
writhing and trying to bite themselves in two. One edge of this piece
has a wildly twisted dragon, the other edge a ring-plait, and the reverse
a fret — no very definite sign of date, though the cable-moulding links it
to the late pre-Norman types and distinguishes it from the earliest

A similar treatment of monsters appears on a shaft at Workington
church, with angular frets on the sides, bird-like creatures on one edge
and a kind of snake on the other.

The Dragonesqjje Series

Snakes interlaced have already been noticed on the Gosforth crosses
and hogbacks, the St. Bees standing cross, and the Plumbland hogback,
and now we have a series in which this characteristic motive of Irish and
Scandinavian work is very distinctly shown, along with features different
from the Gosforth style.

At St. John's, Beckermet, there is a group of stones preserved in
the church which must have formed parts of three very picturesque
crosses. The main material of ornament in all is a double-strap inter-
lacing of a rather irregular design, recalling the Aspatria standing cross,
but interspersed with the conventional Irish and Norse dragon-heads.
In two of these crosses there are geometrical patterns with curled ends
and pellets filling the gaps, which suggest a survival of the spiral school ;
these, like the Penrith and Dacre examples, being transition-types between
the Cumbrian and Gosforth styles. One of them is remarkable for a
clever use of the drill to punctuate the intersections of the plaits, as in
the braid on the north side of Gosforth standing cross and on the
' saint's tomb.' There is a fragment of a still later shaft with angular
interlacing, and cable-moulding which does not appear in the three
others. The socket-stone no doubt belongs to one of the three.

At Haile there are fragments of dragonesque shafts, figured by
Canon Knowles (in Trans. Cumb. and West. Ant. and Arch. Soc. vol. iii.

The head built into High Aikton farm and noticed there by the
Rev. Richard Taylor must have come from Bromfield church, though
it is of a different stone from the interlaced cross already described. In
the place of the boss it has a dragon's head with a ring through the
snout — an adaptation of the idea we have seen carried out at Gosforth,
where the serpents attack the cross-head.

The socket-stone in the tower of Brigham church is a good example
of this dragonesque style. There is also a red sandstone wheel-head,
with three fragments of interlacing of this age ; one of them of white


To face page 274.

The Dragon Lintel, St. Bees.

Cross-head, High Aikton.

The ' Lawrence ' Slab,

T^o face page 275.


freestone, very loose in design, angular and disconnected, evidently
belonging to the close of the period. Over the porch of the vicarage
at Brigham is a head which bears a figure entangled in and grasping
interlaced coils which are now too mutilated to show the dragon's head
if there was one, but this is the completed type of the dragonesque
subject — Christ, the seed of the woman, wrestling with and overcoming
the serpent.

The idea is carried out in a shaft recovered in 1900 from the Nor-
man foundations of Great Clifton church, where there is an echo of the
Gosforth saint's tomb in the two dragons surmounted by two small
human figures, a resemblance so striking as to suggest imitation ; while
at the foot of the shaft is a much ruder figure, with nimbus and long
robes, holding and held by the coils of a serpent. Above this is a great

Socket Stone, Brigham Church.

Cross-head, Brigham Vicarage.

dragon with an unmistakable wolfs head, and a little plaited snake with
a human head, the tempter of Eve — another form of the symbolism in
Dacre cross.

The most perfect example of this conflict with the dragon is the
lintel at St. Bees church, representing St. Michael with helmet, sword
and shield fighting the dragon. Finely designed frets are on either side.
This must belong to quite the end of the pre-Norman series, if not to
the twelfth century, when however Cumberland was not yet really
Normanized. There are many bits of twelfth century interlacing, as at
Brigham and Great Salkeld, in the capitals and details of architecture
which show a continuous tradition of these earlier types, and in some
slabs and fonts there are similar survivals which ought not to be omitted
in a review of early Cumberland art.

The curious slab at Cross Canonby with the cable-stemmed cross,
zigzag ornament as in some Welsh stones, and rude figure, is difficult to
class. The ' gridiron ' over the figure's head has been thought to show



that he is intended for St. Lawrence. The little stone with a rude sketch
of a similar figure incised may be a carver's trial-piece.

At Dearham is a grave-slab with open twelfth century interlacmg,
rosettes and leaves, a helmeted head under an arch, and three figures hold-
ing hands, one of whom, a






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man helmeted, has his foot
in the mouth of a serpent.
At one end of the slab is
the word ' Adam,' at the
other are runes not satisfac-
torily read.

The font at Dearham
has also open interlacing
and a kind of chequer-work
on the opposite side. On
the other sides it has two
monsters of a type not seen
in earlier work, but per-
haps intended for a griffin
and a cetus, meaning the
spiritual nature and the
water of baptism as in
several other fonts. This
is a square font ; that at
Torpenhow is round, with
late Norman interlacing
and interlaced round arches.
The Bridekirk font is
a famous work of the
twelfth century, noticed
here as showing the out-
come of earlier zoomorphic
interlacing under new in-
fluence from Italy. It
was attributed by Prof.
Stephens, not without some
reason, to Richard of Dur-
ham, a great artist living
about 1 1 20-80 whose por-
trait is here, carved by
himself as at work on the
stone, with his signature in runes above, among floral scrolls of the period
and Norman monsters. On one side is the picture of the Fall, Adam
before the angel with the flaming sword and Eve embracing the tree of
life. On the next is the baptism of Christ, and on the opposite side are
a griffin and a cetus supporting a wheel or sun and framed in a pattern
characteristic of twelfth century north Italian art. It is interesting to


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The Adam Slab, Dearham.

Dearham Font.

To face page zy6.

Griffin and Cetus, Bridekirk Font.


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To face page zyj.

The Baptism of Christ, Bridekirk Fonx'.


find that as we began 500 years before with north Italian influence pro-
ducing beautiful work in Cumberland, so we conclude the survey with a
new development under teaching from the same source.

Post-Conquest High Crosses

Before leaving the subject of Cumberland crosses it may be neces-
sary to mention those which are not pre-Norman, but of a later date,
though sometimes confused with the early grave-monuments. We have
complete crosses of the mediasval type at Arthuret, Kirkland, Rheda
(Cross Lacon) and St. Bees (the resting cross) ; headless shafts at
Dovenby, Lanercost (dated by inscription 12 14) and Lazonby ; heads
alone at Bromfield (two built into the out-house of the vicarage),
Cumwhitton and Gosforth (built into the porch), and some sockets alone.
Crosses used to exist, but are now lost, at Castle Sowerby (two corpse
crosses on the common), Croglin, Lamplugh, Melmerby and at Bow
said to have been brought from Grinsdale. Beside these are market
crosses, as at Blennerhasset and Ireby, and finial crosses removed from
the gables of churches, as at Melmerby and Workington (Crossbill),
where the inscription W.H. JJ03 stands for W.H. 1703, the date
when it was built into its present position. In March, 1901, a fragment
of a late cross was found in excavating the ruins of a chapel at the Holy
Well, Gosforth.


In Cumberland there have been found seven Runic inscriptions on
stone and two on metal-work. Another which has been called Runic is
in minuscules ; and an Anglo-Saxon cross-head at Carlisle has lettering
in uncials. These, if not all cut before the advent of the Normans,
belong to the pre-Norman type of remains.

The Bewcastle cross has runes which have been the subject of
much discussion. The reading which may be called the Textus Receptus,
though not without difEculties, we owe mainly to the late Rev. J.
Maughan of Bewcastle. It is as follows —

North side, on separate lines between the ornamental panels ;

t GESSUS t Jesus


MYRCNAOYNG King of the Mercians

CYNESWIThA Cyneswitha (his sister)

CYNNBURUG Cyneburg (their sister, wife of Alcfrith)

South side, on separate lines between the ornamental panels :


ECGFRIThU OfEcgfrith

RICES Th>EES of this realm

CYNINGES king (brother of Alcfrith)

t FRUMAN GEAR t in the first year

The lowest lines in each set are plainly legible; Herr Wilhelm Vietor
however [Die Northumbrischen Runensteine, 1895) reads CYNIBURUG. The



rest is now very far from distinct, though part of the topmost line on the
north side can be read.

West side, over the figure of Christ :



There are traces of a name, possibly that of Christ, at the top of
that side. On the panel below the figure of Christ is a long inscription,
which we give in facsimile from a squeeze-tracing. The reading usually
adopted is —


This victory-column
tall set up
Hwaetred, Woth-
gar, Olwfwol-
thu, for Alcfrith
late king

and son of Oswiu
Pray for (? the high
sin of?) his soul

Herr Victor thinks that the name Hivcetred, part of the Wothgar and the
word for king are distinctly readable ; while he is inclined to accept the
name of Alcfrith and the word for son of Oswiu. In the last two lines
he sees a version of the usual formula, Pray for his soul.

Our facsimile shows how difficult these last lines are to read, and
how doubtful ' the high sin ' must be ; though the main purport of the
inscription seems to be fairly clear. If the Bewcastle cross is to be
dated 671, as its inscription and ornament seem to suggest, these runes
are the earliest dated piece of English writing in existence.

The Irton cross had an inscription in runes, of which Professor
George Stephens of Copenhagen read (from a cast made in 1863 by the
Rev. Daniel H. Haigh) this fragment —


Pray for


Herr Victor in 1895 said : ' I can only see at the end of the first line
the remains of a B, or as Haigh thought p (Thorn, the rune for Th),
but not Haigh's + G at the beginning of the first line, F at the beginning
and M at the end of the second, /E at the beginning of the third line.'
In Carlisle cathedral a Runic inscription was found by Mr. Purday

in 1855 under the plaster and white-
wash on the western wall of the
south transept, where it may be seen
framed and glazed. It is evidently
not a monumental inscription, though
taken on discovery as such, but the
sgraffito of some mason — perhaps —
at the time when the cathedral was being built. After some guesses
Dr. Charlton read —


' Dolfin wrote these runes on this stone.'


The Dolfin Runes.

Runes of Bewcastle Cross.

To face pagt 278.


which Stephens adopted with slight alteration. The circumstances in
which the inscription was found seem to warrant its genuineness, but the
spelling is curious and the forms unusual.

Near Bewcastle at Barnspike a shepherd found runes on a rock in
1864. Mr. Maughan read —


He referred this to the legend, exploded by Mr. Hodgson Hinde, of
the circumstances which led to the foundation of Lanercost priory ; and




translated : ' Baran wrote this inscription in memory of Gillhes Bueth,

who was slain in a truce by Robert De Vaux for his patrimony now

called Lanercost.' We believe that the inscription was a practical joke.

The runes and some of the forms are taken from Mr. Maughan's own

pamphlet, and especially from his erroneous copy of the Carlisle

cathedral inscription. The word he read FADRLAND should be read

FETRIANA, and it was Mr. Maughan's theory that Petriana was the

Roman name for Lanercost. No Scandinavian rune-writer in the

eleventh century would have called Rodbertus de Vallibus ' Rab D (or

te) Vaulks,' or have described Lanercost with imaginary antiquarianism

as ' Petriana now Llanerkasta.' The F was used as initial for Petriana

because P is a rare letter in late Scandinavian runes ; and the double L

for Lanercost was to suggest a Welsh or British origin of the name.



Half a mile north of Barnspike, near Hazel Gill, another shepherd
found more runes on a rock in 1872. Professor Stephens read —

* Ask wrote this hill to Gil henchman to Hessil.'

We can find no HESSIL on the stone, but we find the names Hessil and
Gil in Hazel Gill or Hessil Gill hard by, and Ask at Askerton Castle.
This finding of proper names in place-names was characteristic of the
period and of Mr. Maughan, and the inscription seems to have been
another practical joke (see Early Sculptured Crosses of the Diocese of
Carlisle, 1899, pp. 48—53).

Bridekirk font bears runes of the twelfth century. The second

The Bridekirk Runes.

line is by no means clear, but the reading of W. Hamper (1820) and
Professor Stephens does not seem to have been bettered —


* Richard, he me wrought, and to this beauty carefully me brought.*

At Dearham the ' Adam Slab,' already described, has beside the
word ADAM a few broken runes. The Rev. W. S. Calverley communi-

•4 M*flT

The Dearham Runes.

cated them to Professor Stephens, who said that as later runes they
would read HNI^RM, which means nothing : therefore he regarded them
as early runes and read —

(Krist S)U(L) GI-NI/ERA
'May-Christ his-SOUL N/ERE (save, bless)!'

He dated the stone, from this reading, ' 850-950 ? ' but this date seems


The Inscribed Cross, St. Bridget's, Beckermet.

To face page 281.


impossible from the character of the ornament on the slab, which
suggests twelfth century work. Herr Vietor only says : ' The northern
rune M (earlier R) shows that the inscription is not EngHsh in character.'
We leave our tracing to the reader's consideration.

The amulet ring found at Kingmoor in 1817 or 1818 (now in
the British Museum, Anglo-Saxon Room) also bears runes, which
appear to be a magical formula (see Stephens, Old-Northern Runic
Monuments, i. 496 ; iii. 218).

The Aspatria gold armlet, found in 1828, and now lost, had runes

Online LibraryJames WilsonThe Victoria history of the county of Cumberland → online text (page 38 of 63)