Two high cross shafts in St Bridget's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012644

Date first listed: 30-Dec-1952

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Jun-1995


Ordnance survey map of Two high cross shafts in St Bridget's churchyard
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland (District Authority)

Parish: St. Bridget Beckermet

National Grid Reference: NY 01503 06045


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 important.

Although incomplete and partly weathered, the two high cross shafts in St Bridget's churchyard, Beckermet, survive reasonably well and display good and unusual examples of late Anglian and Anglo-Scandinavian art styles. In particular the use of three encircling mouldings or collars around the shafts is the only known example of such decoration in Cumbria. Likewise the inscription on the older of the cross shafts is in a form of lettering unique in Cumbria. Together these cross shafts attest to the importance of both the church and its environs as a pre-Conquest centre of ecclesiastical importance.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes part of a ninth century Anglian cross shaft and part of a late tenth/early eleventh century Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft located side by side in the churchyard to the south of St Bridget's Church, Beckermet. The earlier fragment of cross shaft is constructed of pale yellow sandstone and has a cross section which is squarish with rounded angles. It measures 1.32m high, has a maximum circumference of 1.75m at the base, and fits into a sandstone socle or base which has a rectangular socket and is thus not the original for this shaft. A triple collar carving encircles the shaft and divides it into approximately two equal halves. Below this collar the shaft is undecorated, above the collar there is decoration on all sides. The broad west face is covered by a very worn inscription. Five lines are marked out by incised frames and there may have been some letters in the scalloped space at the base. It reads: H[I]N[-]LE[D-E] IUDI[I-D.H] *[-N]IET *O[-..]E [.]X[-] At present this text has not been deciphered, nor has the language in which it was written been determined. The broad east face of the shaft depicts a bush scroll with berry bunches and a pair of leaves, the narrow north face shows part of a tree scroll with three or four symmetrical spirals containing berry bunches and a number of isolated berries in the scroll, and the south face depicts part of a split-stemmed plant trail carving. The cross shaft is dated to the second quarter of the ninth century. The later fragment of cross shaft is constructed of red sandstone and in cross section it has a rounded base with a rectangular upper part. It measures 1.72m high, has a maximum circumference of 1.2m, and fits into a sandstone socle or base. A triple collar carving encircles the lower part of the shaft. Below this collar the shaft is undecorated, above it is decorated on all sides with single panels bordered by roll moulding at the sides and swag moulding at the bottom. Within each of these panels vertical rows of interlace carving is depicted. The cross shaft is dated to the tenth or 11th century. All graves and headstones within the area of the scheduling are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them 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.

Legacy System number: 23782

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bailey, R N, Cramp, R, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, (1988), 54-7

End of official listing