High cross shaft in St John's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012711

Date first listed: 19-Nov-1965

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Jun-1995


Ordnance survey map of High cross shaft in St John's churchyard
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Nov-2018 at 16:08:41.


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

County: Cumbria

District: Copeland (District Authority)

Parish: Waberthwaite

National Park: LAKE DISTRICT

National Grid Reference: SD 10033 95106


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 the cross head has been lost, the high cross shaft in St John's churchyard displays a good example of ninth/ early tenth century Anglo- Scandinavian art styles. In particular it represents an impressive fusion of Anglian and Scandinavian artistic traditions linked with a local taste for parallel strips of ornamentation.


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


The monument includes a late ninth/early-tenth century Anglo-Scandinavian high cross shaft located in the churchyard to the south of St John's Church, Waberthwaite. The shaft is constructed of red sandstone and is rectangular in cross section tapering slightly towards the top. It is 2m high, measures 48.5cm wide by 27.5cm thick at its base, and is set into a sandstone socle or base measuring 86cm by 65cm and 43cm high. The shaft is decorated on all four sides. The east face is divided into four panels and depicts animal figures together with roll moulding and interlace carving. The west face depicts a single panel divided by a vertical moulding into two parallel strips of interlace carving. The north face depicts interlace carving while the south face also depicts interlace with the addition of a bird-like head towards the top of the shaft. This decoration combines Viking period interlace carving with the earlier Anglian artistic tradition of winged birds and animals. The cross shaft was found in 1825 during rebuilding of the church porch and subsequently reused as a lintel. It was moved to its present position between 1884-89 and set in what is thought to be its original socket.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 0 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: 23779

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bailey, R N, Cramp, R, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, (1988), 151-2

End of official listing