Anglo-Scandinavian high cross shaft in the churchyard of St Werburgh's Church, Spondon
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 23-Sep-2019 at 21:39:51.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- City of Derby (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SK 39796 35920
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 northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving
examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses
were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of
carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this
tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be
either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within
dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently
small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross.
High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with
established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services,
some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes
or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration
of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and
interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the
rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved
ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these
pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and
erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church,
but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the
art styles and mythology of Viking settlers.
Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been
identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are
fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to
represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were
defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th
centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new
building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and
changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs
during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the
north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally
Although very eroded, the cross shaft in St Werburgh's churchyard, Spondon, is an important example of a later high cross displaying the style of decoration brought to this class of monument by the Scandinavian settlement of the East Midlands. It is also unique in Derbyshire being the only recorded example of a high cross made of limestone rather than sandstone.
The monument is the eroded shaft of an Anglo-Scandinavian high cross dating to
the mid to late ninth century. It comprises a tapering limestone block of
roughly square section measuring 54cm by 48cm at the base, 40cm by 35cm at the
top and standing 126cm tall. Originally it would have been surmounted by a
cross head and may also have been set into a stone base or socle. Currently it
is mortared onto a modern paving slab.
It is likely that the whole cross shaft was once highly decorated, in common
with most other high crosses. However, pollution and natural weathering of the
limestone has worn away all but a remnant of the ornamentation so that no
decoration is visible on the east and west faces while, on the south face,
only a series of grooves remain which appear, originally, to have divided the
surface into four panels, each of which would have contained either abstract
designs or, possibly, figural or faunal carvings. On the north face,
approximately half-way up, is a line of carved scrolls which is all that
remains of a Viking-style interlace pattern recorded in a sketch of the shaft
done in the 1930s. Beneath this are traces of a simple incised cross also
depicted in the sketch. The original site of the cross shaft is not known but,
in common with all other high crosses in Derbyshire, it is likely to have been
on the south side of the church. It is said to have been moved several times
prior to being relocated in its current position on the north-west side of the
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.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Cox, Reverend J C, The Churches of Derbyshire, (1877), 302-3
Hughes, J, Lusted, S, Parish Church of St Werburgh, Spondon, Derby, (1990), 14
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