The Giant's Grave - Two Anglian cross-shafts and four hogback stones in St Andrew's churchyard, Penrith


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Eden (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 51640 30168

Reasons for Designation

High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found throughout western and northern England, although they are particularly concentrated in the north. Surviving examples are all of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses were also used for similar purposes. Such crosses comprise shafts supporting carved cross heads. They might be set within a carved stone base. The cross heads were frequently small; the broad cross shafts being the main feature of the cross. They were erected in a variety of locations and appear to have served a variety of functions. Some are associated with established churches and monasteries and may mark burial places; focal points used in religious services, or the boundaries of ecclesiastical land holdings. Others may have marked routeways or other gathering points for local communities. All examples tend to be heavily decorated, the patterns and ornaments used drawing on wider artistic traditions of the time. Patterns of interlace are common, some depicted as 'vine scrolls', tendrils of growth of the grape vine, sometimes complete with leaves. On the most developed examples this 'vine scroll' is shown to be inhabited by a variety of birds and animals. Panels depicting figures and animals are also commonly found; on occasion these depict Biblical scenes or personages. This carved ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours, although traces of these colourings now survive only rarely. The earliest examples were created and erected by native inhabitants; later examples are heavily influenced by Viking art styles and mythology, and their creation can be related to the Viking infiltration and settlement of the north of England. Several distinct regional groupings and regional types have been identified; some being the product of single 'schools' of craftsmen. Around 200 examples of such crosses have been identified. This is likely to represent only a small portion of those originally erected. Some were defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm in the late medieval period. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new building works. They provide an important insight into art traditions and changing art styles. The figured panels provide information on religious beliefs. The Viking period stones contribute to studies of the impact of the Scandinavian newcomers into the north of England. All well preserved examples will be identified as nationally important. Hogback stones, frequently heavily decorated, are Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian tomb markers of the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are constructed of stone and have a narrow ridge and steeply sloping sides. They are thought to mark the burial places of prominent local people and as such are to be found in, or associated with, churchyards or burial grounds of those periods. As with high crosses, hogback stones tend to be heavily decorated, the patterns and ornament used drawing on the same wider artistic traditions of that time. In the north of England they enjoyed a distribution which is peculiar to those areas which formed the Irish-Norse kingdom of York in the early to mid tenth century. These represent a local development, modelled probably on pre-Scandinavian, Northumbrian traditions of stone, house-shaped shrines. Attracted by their links with the saints the Norse aristocracy used them as grave covers. Their distribution allows an insight into the cemeteries patronized by the tenth century aristocracy. Although considered unlikely to be in their precise original location - apart from the western cross shaft - the Giant's Grave group of cross shafts and hogback stones is a remarkable group of richly carved tenth century monuments unparalled in Cumbria. They survive reasonably well, display good examples of tenth century art styles, and attest to the importance of both the church environs and the wider local area as a centre of aristocratic habitation during the tenth century.


The monument is two Anglian cross shafts and four hogback stones - known locally as The Giant's Grave - located in St Andrew's churchyard, Penrith. It includes a pair of tenth century Anglian cross shafts situated at the east and west sides of a setting of four hogback stones of similar date. The cross shafts and hogbacks are all constructed of local red sandstone. The western cross shaft stands in its original socket hole, measures c.3.6m tall, and tapers towards the top. It is of rectangular cross section in its upper part and rounded cross section in its lower part. All sides except the east display interlaced decoration on the rectangular part of the shaft above a horizontal band of interlacing at the point where the shaft becomes rounded. The top of the shaft has remains of a single arm of the cross head. The eastern cross shaft is of similar height and cross section as the western cross. It displays interlaced decoration on the rectangular part of the shaft on three faces but on the west face displays, from the top, an animal, a human figure, and interlace. Immediately below this decoration on all faces the cross shaft becomes rounded and displays a band of horizontal interlacing. The top of the shaft has remains of three arms of the cross head. The south-east hogback measures c.1.8m long and displays a decoration of interlacing and tenth century Anglian scroll. The south-west hogback also measures c.1.8m long and displays a heavily weathered decoration of four different types of interlacing plus a small human figure on its eastern end. The north-west hogback measures c.2m long and displays a heavily weathered decoration of a serpent and a human figure interpreted as Christ. The north-east hogback is too weathered to identify any decoration. Local tradition states that the monument is associated with Ewan, variously known as Owen, Caesarius, Ewain Caesarius, Owain Caesarius, Eugenius, or Hugh, who was elected King of Cumberland in AD 920 and died in AD 975. The footpath adjacent to the monument is excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser' in Proceedings 1946-7, (1947), 221-5
'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser' in Proceedings 1946-7, (1947), 221-5
Collingwood, W G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser' in The Giant's Grave, Penrith, (1923), 115-29
Collingwood, W G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser' in The Giant's Grave, Penrith, (1923), 115-29


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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