Anglo-Saxon period cross in churchyard of All Saints
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Sep-2019 at 09:24:19.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Barnsley (Metropolitan Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SE 28463 07939
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
The monument is of major importance because it is one of only a small number of Anglo-Saxon period monuments having an otherwise unique repertoire of design characteristics confined to a small regional group of crosses in southern Yorkshire. In addition, the monument is in a good state of preservation, with the base of the shaft, in particular, being most instructive on the iconographic content of this group. The survival of a likely contemporary crosshead is also relatively rare in the context of freestanding Anglo-Saxon period monuments.
The monument includes the remains of a cross shaft and cross head of
Anglo-Saxon date, erected in the churchyard of All Saints, Cawthorne, near
Barnsley. The shaft has been reconstructed with the addition of more recent
sections of masonry. The cross stands at the western edge of the older part
of the churchyard, the latter having now been extended to the west. There is
little likelihood that the cross stands at its original location. All Saints
Church is recorded in the Domesday survey and occupies a small bluff of land
overlooking much of the present village. The oldest surviving fabric of the
church is thought to date from the 13th century, although there is an
Early Norman font inside.
The reconstructed shaft, together with the crosshead, now stands about 4.5m
high. It sits in a stepped base arrangement which is of 19th century or early
20th century date. There are three sections of original pre-Conquest work as
follows. Firstly, the crosshead surmounting the shaft measuring approximately
0.6m by 0.7m with a thickness of about 0.13m. Secondly, the uppermost portion
of the shaft measuring 0.35 by 0.22m with an average thickness of 0.13m.
Thirdly, the base of the shaft measuring 0.95m by 0.4m with an average
thickness of 0.24m. Between the lower portion and the uppermost section of the
shaft is a recent addition of a simply carved sandstone shaft, an attempt to
reconstruct the cross to its estimated original height. The shaft is slightly
tapered from 0.4m by 0.3m at the base to 0.25m by 0.17m at the top.
The original fragments, although showing some signs of some weathering in
places, are in relatively good condition. The shaft stands in a stepped base
which appears to have been constructed during either the 19th or 20th century.
It is not clear how much of the shaft lies below the base socket.
Three of the crosshead arms are decorated on the west side with abstract
patterns of semi-circles within incised squares. There is an incised grooved
moulding around the perimeter of the arms. The centre of the crosshead
contains an embossed ovoid shape which is coarsely tooled-off. The shape
indicates that this may have once depicted a human head, subsequently defaced.
A similar crosshead, also with a raised, tooled-off ovoid motif can also be
seen at Dewsbury. The east side of the crosshead is mainly plain with a
perimeter incised grooved moulding. At the centre is a small boss resembling
a wreath. There appears to have been a pattern at the bottom of the lowest arm
which has subsequently been damaged.
The upper part of the shaft has an undecorated finely-tooled face on each side
surrounded by an incised groove (doubled on the west face). It is obviously
incomplete. The lowest portion of the shaft is the largest and is decorated
on all sides. The west side contains eight small arrangements of the same
pattern found on the west side of the crosshead - semi-circles in an incised
square. However, about two-thirds of the face contains what appears to be the
body and legs of a grotesque, apparently suspended figure. The naked feet,
toes and hands of the figure are still visible. The north face contains one
similar pattern to those on the crosshead and also four semi-circles contained
within a circle, resembling a hot-cross bun. Just below the centre of the
shaft on this face is an multi-strand square panel of interlace. The east face
is mainly undecorated but has a series of ten semi-circles (without
containment) at the bottom. The south face has three square panels of semi-
circles with the most part plain. All faces have incised grooves close to the
edges (doubled on the west). All of the original components of the cross
appear to have been carved from local Coal Measures sandstone.
Built into the east wall of the north aisle to the present church building is
another crosshead of similar shape to that on the churchyard cross. This also
is decorated with semi-circles and has a grotesque head carved in the centre
with two of the semi-circles forming the ears or large ear-rings. This
fragment is not however included in the scheduling.
The cross fragments are thought to date from the 11th century, although
recent studies indicate that they may belong to the early 10th century. The
fragments belong to a discrete regional group of crosses all contained within
the present county of South Yorkshire. Other examples of the group can be
found at Mexborough, Penistone, High Hoyland, Ecclesfield and possibly at
Conisbrough. The decoration, large areas of finely-tooled plain stone,
together with the incised carving technique, are unique to this region. The
decorative elements are untypical for Anglo-Saxon crosses and kindred
monuments and are, in some cases, better likened to the pre-Conquest inscribed
stones of western Britain.
Excluded from the scheduling are all stone walls fences and funerary
furniture, where they fall within the cross's protective margin, although the
ground beneath is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 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
Collingwood, W G, Northumbrian Crosses of the Pre-Norman Age, (1927)
Ryder, P F, 'County Archaeological Monograph No.2' in Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire, (1982), 105-8
Sidebottom, P C, The Ecclesfield Cross and 'Celtic' Survival, 1997, (forthcoming)
Sidebottom, PC, Schools of Anglo-Saxon Monuments in the North Midlands, 1994, unpublished PhD thesis, Sheffield
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