Caratacus Stone: an inscribed stone 140m east of Spire Cross
- 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 29-Feb-2020 at 12:51:34.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- West Somerset (District Authority)
- National Park:
- National Grid Reference:
- SS 88970 33557
Reasons for Designation
Early Christian memorial stones are inscribed free-standing stones
commemorating named individuals and dating to the early medieval period (c.AD
400-1100). The stones are erect, roughly dressed or undressed slabs, bearing
incised inscriptions, usually set in one or more vertical lines down one face
of the slab, although in four examples the text runs horizontally across the
slab. All except two recorded texts are in Latin and, depending on their date,
may be inscribed in a script of Romanised capitals or an insular form of lower
case lettering called miniscules, or a mixture of the two. Six stones also
have inscriptions in an Irish script called ogham. Most inscriptions are
simple, bearing a personal name and often stating a family relationship, such
as `filii' (son of), to another personal name. Fourteen stones contain
elements of the simple inscriptions within a longer, complex inscriptive
formula, often including the phrase `hic iacet' (here lies). Additional
decoration is found on very few stones and usually comprises a cross within a
circle. Early examples, prior to the eighth century AD, may bear an early
Christian symbol called a Chi Rho monogram, compounding the first two Greek
letters of the name `Christ'.
Early Christian memorial stones are largely restricted to areas which retained
Celtic traditions during the early medieval period, with at least 139 recorded
from Wales. In England, they are almost entirely confined to the south-west
peninsula; of the 56 recorded examples, 37 occur in Cornwall, 11 in Devon, a
group of 5 in Dorset, and single examples in Somerset, Hampshire and
Shropshire. As a very rare and diverse class of monument important for our
understanding of the social organisation and the development of literacy and
Christianity during the early medieval period, all surviving groundfast
examples of early Christian memorial stones are considered worthy of
The Caratacus Stone survives well and is an exceptional example of this class of monument of which only a few examples are recorded across southern Britian. Inscribed stones are generally seen as indicative of a wealthy aristocratic class in the process of conversion to Christianity and the Caratacus Stone is the only known inscribed early Christian memorial stone in Somerset. It forms a well-known focal point in the Exmoor landscape where it can be publicly viewed at all times and continues to perform its original function as a memorial stone making reference to the 1st century Celtic hero Caratacus.
The monument includes an inscribed early Christian memorial stone known as
the Caratacus Stone which is situated in open moorland, 140m east of Spire
Cross on the south eastern edge of Winsford Hill. The stone, which is of
early medieval date, is free-standing and of local origin. It is an
undressed, roughly wedged-shaped block, 1.2m high, 0.3m wide and 0.2m
thick with up to 0.3m buried beneath the ground surface. The incised
inscription, on the east face of the stone, reads from top to bottom and
comprises two lines of capital script with each letter between 0.05m and
0.1m high. Further text on the other face or faces may have weathered
away. The surviving text is Latin and reads `CARAACI' and `NEPVS'. This
has been translated by several authorities to mean `kinsman of Caratacus'
as `nepvs' denotes some form of kinship in contemporary Romano-British
inscriptions. It is generally accepted that the stone was erected as a
memorial to someone claiming descent from Caratacus, a notable British
rebel of the 1st century AD. The name of the individual whose memory the
stone commemorates is unknown, possibly because the original text is
incomplete or that traces of his name have weathered away through time.
Specifically included in the scheduling is the open-sided stone shelter which protects the monument and which, although modern in date, performs an important protective role.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Okasha, E, Corpus of Early Christian Inscribed Stones of South-west Britain, (1993), 328-332
Thomas, C, And Shall These Mute Stones Speak?, (1994), 288
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