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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 157
Date assigned Wednesday, October 31, 1962
Date last amended Monday, March 21, 1994


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 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. DETAILS 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 church. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: Hughes, J. and S. Lusted - Title: Parish Church of St Werburgh, Spondon, Derby - Date: 1990 - Page References: 14 - Type: GUIDE BOOK Book Reference - Author: Rev. Cox, J. C. - Title: The Churches of Derbyshire - Date: 1877 - Volume: 3 - Page References: 302-3 - Type: DESC TEXT - Description: Illustrated

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1962. Scheduling Notification: Anglo-Scandinavian high cross shaft in the churchyard of St Werburgh's Church, Spondon. List entry no. 1008608. SM Cat. No. 157.



Grid reference Centred SK 3979 3592 (10m by 10m)
Map sheet SK33NE

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Record last edited

Oct 1 2013 3:01PM

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