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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 346
Date assigned Friday, June 24, 1994
Date last amended


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 somewhat eroded, the cross shaft in the churchyard of All Saints', Brailsford is a good example of a later high cross displaying the crude decoration and Viking motifs brought to this class of monument by the Scandinavian settlement of the East Midlands. The adjacent socle is an important component of a later medieval standing cross whose location in the churchyard indicates a specifically religious function linked to the liturgy of the church calendar. DETAILS The monument includes the shaft of a late ninth or tenth century high cross and the separate socle or base of a medieval standing cross. Together, shaft and socle stand as markers at the west and east ends respectively of the grave of Charles Henry Fairfax who was rector of the parish of Brailsford from 1904 until his death in 1919. The medieval socle consists of an undecorated dressed sandstone block with worn chamfered corners. It measures 62cm by 55cm by 43cm tall and, in the top, includes a rectangular socket which measures 36cm by 28cm and gives an indication of the scale and shape of the missing medieval cross shaft. The Anglo-Scandinavian high cross shaft is also sandstone and has a columnar lower section separated from a tapering rectangular upper section by a collar comprising two rings of roll-moulding. Originally a cross head would have surmounted the shaft. It is also likely that the shaft was originally set into a socle since the bottom part of it tapers inwards to slot into a round socket. Currently it is mortared onto a modern sandstone base. The rectangular upper section of the shaft is decorated on two faces with interlace carving and, on the remaining faces, with a `key' design similar to patterns associated with Viking tablet-weaving. Cable-mouldings edge the angles of the shaft, framing the ornamentation. The upper half of the columnar section is also highly ornamented and this decoration formerly covered the eroded lower half where, currently, only traces remain to indicate the continuation of an overall pattern. On the north side this pattern comprises a crudely executed interlace design filled with raised dots. This gives way, on the east and west sides, to a series of spirals which are similar to but cruder than the plant scrolls commonly seen on high crosses of a century or so earlier. The crudeness of the carving indicates that the cross had a secular origin, possibly as a memorial, and this is also suggested by the figure of a Viking carved on the upper part of the south face. The figure, which is 40cm high and framed by diagonal bands of interlace and roll-moulding, faces out from the shaft and has an ovoid head with simple incised features, a knee-length garment ornamented to represent a byrnie or chainmail shirt, crude stick-like legs with left-pointing feet and simple arms and shoulders carved in a continuous line. In its right hand it holds a Viking-style sword with the blade angled across the body, and, in its upraised left hand, a round shield with an incised boss. A plaque attached to the modern cross base indicates that the Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft was found buried beneath the medieval socle in July 1919 and was set on its current base in that same year. The shaft is 132cm high and has a maximum diameter of c.40cm. The grave and the modern cross base are excluded from the scheduling together with all other graves falling within the area of the scheduling and the surface of the path immediately to the south, although the ground beneath these features is included. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: Pevsner, N and Williamson, E - Title: The Buildings of England: Derbyshire - Date: 1978 - Type: DESC TEXT Article Reference - Date: 1925 - Journal Title: Derbyshire Archaeological Journal - Volume: 45 - Type: DESC TEXT Article Reference - Author: Routh, J.E. - Date: 1937 - Journal Title: Derbyshire Archaeological Journal - Volume: 58 - Type: DESC TEXT

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1994. Scheduling Notification: Anglo-Scandinavian high cross shaft and medieval cross base in the churchyard of All Saints' Church. List entry no. 1008607. SM Cat. No. 346.



Grid reference Centred SK 2449 4126 (13m by 13m)
Map sheet SK24SW

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Record last edited

Sep 6 2013 3:00PM

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