Angles, Danes and Norse in the District of Huddersfield (1929) - Chapter 6

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Angles, Danes and Norse in the District of Huddersfield (1929) by W.G. Collingwood (2nd edition)

  • Preface (page 3)
  • Chapter 1 : The Anglian Occupation of Yorkshire (page 7)
  • Chapter 2 : British Loidis and Elmet (page 9)
  • Chapter 3 : The Anglian and British Map of the Huddersfield District (page 13)
  • Chapter 4 : The Anglian Abbeys (page 17)
  • Chapter 5 : Anglian Monuments (page 19)
  • Chapter 6 : Dewsbury (page 24)
  • Chapter 7 : Thornhill (page 33)
  • Chapter 8 : Walton and Rastrick Cross-bases (page 37)
  • Chapter 9 : Kirkburton and Kirkheaton — the Danish Settlers (page 40)
  • Chapter 10 : High Hoyland and the Norse Settlers (page 46)
  • Chapter 11 : Domesday Book an the Norman Conquest (page 50)
  • Chapter 12 : Mirfield, Cawthrone, Penistone and Skelmanthorpe (page 55)
  • Summary (page 60)
  • Bibliography (page 61)


We have now cleared the way for a study of the old stones collected by the late Mr. S.J. Chadwick and others in the north-west corner of Dewsbury Parish Church.

We have mentioned the traditional connection of St. Paulinus with this place. When Leland, the antiquary of Henry VIII., visited it, he saw a great cross on which he read an inscription recorded in his notes as "Paulinus hic praedicavit et celebravit" – Here Paulinus preached and celebrated mass. Camden, Queen Elizabeth’s antiquary, did not see it but heard of it. We do not know when it was destroyed. At Sheffield there is a record of "4d. for pullinge down the cross" in 1570; and other crosses were destroyed by Puritans under the commonwealth. A ballad by former vicar of Dewsbury contains this verse: -

In the churchyard once a cross did stand
Of Apostles sculptured there
And had engraven thereupon
Paulinus preached here.

Leland’s Latin sentence is still used as the local motto and we have seen that, at any rate, it is possible to interpret Bede’s evidence as stating the existence of the altar of Paulinus, at which he celebrated mass and beside which he preached, as a relic treasured at Dewsbury soon after A.D. 700. This would be enough to account for the tradition and for the erection of a monument on which he was commemorated at a later age. Can we form some idea of this monument? To get even an approximate restoration of so famous a cross makes it worthwhile lingering a little over the subject.

Six of the stones in the church are carved in the same style, though not by the same hand. Upon any great cross several workmen, some better, and some worse, would be employed; at Ruthwell it is obvious that is was so. These six stones are all evidently parts of an exceptionally important work, if they can be pieced together. Three of them (a, b, c) would fit a round pillar, with a diameter, as shown by their curves, of about 30 inches. Two (de, which represent adjacent sides of the same stone, and f, which is another stone; the dotted lines suggesting restoration of missing details) are parts of an ordinary cross-shaft; that they belong to the same shaft is shown by their cable-edging, which is elaborate and uncommon. The sixth (gh, two adjacent sides) is of different stone; it is the topmost part of a very large cross-head which would be four feet over the arms, the size of great heads at Lastingham and Masham.

Very large crosses, as at Ruthwell, were often built up from different stones, and the quarry that supplied the long stone for the shaft would probably not offer a wide piece for the head. Some great crosses were also uplifted on a round pillar; the general idea being that of a cylinder shaved off into four flat sides, as if one sharpened a pencil with four cuts; the best known example is at Gosforth, Cumberland, but there were ninth century Anglian crosses of this form, as the "Apostles" shaft at Collingham and the "Lion" shaft at Dacre, Cumberland; no doubt the Masham pillar was connected with the great head there by a flat-sided shaft, making a cross of the type now suggested for a restoration of the Paulinus monument.

The flat sides at Gosforth end below the round panels, the frame making the lower half of the circle. In b there is the same curious cable-edging taking this shape, above a two-inch band which is seen also in a. the figure of Christ inscribed (a) above HIS XRVS, 'Jesus Christ,'’ must have sat, as at Masham, among the apostles (b) forming the circle around the pillar. In c there are similar apostles standing over the arches, each arch containing two figures, which may represent prophets. This gives the cylindrical part, unless there was another tier of figures or ornaments below, as at Masham, and it gives the junction of the lower with the upper part of the whole.

In the curve of the framing cable of b is a bit of drapery, but no feet, showing that some half-length human figure occupied the semicircular panel. The natural filling would be the symbols of the four evangelists, and this must have been the St. Matthew. Placing him here, we get St. John’s eagle over the Christ. From this upwards the shaft must taper to fit the head, and the stones d e and f find their places where they fit the tapering shaft.

Of these stones, f represents two subjects. Beneath, we see Christ feeding the multitude, with the intention explained by the lettering above the panel, (V PA)NES ET DVO PIS(CES) – "Five loaves and two fishes." Two of the loaves and the head of one of the fishes still traceable; and if there should be any doubt about the use of this subject in pre-Norman times, we can point to the similar, though earlier, stone at Hornby near Lancaster in confirmation. The dotted lines show the completion of the picture, lost by the breaking of the stone. But in this panel we have also the crowd looking on at the miracle, made still more dramatic with the one little figure that is trying to peep round and see for himself what is happening. The dramatic intent of the designer is shown also in the panel above, representing the Miracle of Cana, inscribed (VI)NVM FECIT EX A(QVA) – "He made wine out of water." Four of the six waterpots remain. The Virgin, on Christ’s right hand, is obviously telling Him "They have no wine"; and another person, perhaps St. John, is holding his hand to his cheek as if wondering what is to be done. Christ, with a book-scroll in His left hand, lifts His right hand in blessing, and the miracle is accomplished.

The completion of the "Loaves and Fishes" panel does not fill the required space, but this can be made out with another panel, into which may be put, without doing violence to the design, a plait of the period, as on the Berhtsuith cross at Thornhill. Over the scroll of e are the lower part of a draped figure and two feet, which suggest a representation of the Healing of the Blind Man, as at Ruthwell. Over the Virgin and Child(d), is the lower part of a draped figure sitting in a chair, in profile; King David playing the harp is a favourite Anglian subject and connects with the Virgin and Child as their great ancestor. Under the Virgin’s feet are the remnants of another scroll panel like that of e. This still leaves much of the shaft blank; but one panel may well have shown Paulinus, and the rest of the space must have been occupied by subjects such as seen on other crosses of the period; in the sketch herewith and in the model at the Museum, this has been carried out to make the whole restoration intelligible. The general character is fairly certain; the added details are open to revision whenever more fragments are discovered, and the lower part of the shaft, plain and cylindrical, was perhaps taller than as shown in the sketch and more like the model.

Of the head, the topmost part (g,h) is preserved. The figure holding on to the angel’s robe is like one at Otley and another at Halton, evidently a favourite motive in the ninth century. At the back is the wing of another angel, the rest obliterated. The edge (g) is filled with a little animal and a figure in the attitude of prayer. For the lost part of the head we can use the Archer shooting at a bird, as at Ruthwell; symbolizing the enemy, from whom the person above is taking refuge with the Angel who holds the cross.

So we get a pretty complete, though provisional, restoration of this lost masterpiece of Anglian art. We can see that it would have been about 18 feet high, or more; the lower part and base being the unknown quantities. The shape and size tally with the evidence of the fragments in making it a work of the ninth century, and the date of about A.D. 860 is as early as we can venture to put it.

This date is more than two hundred years after Paulinus left Yorkshire, and any mention of him on the cross must have recorded a tradition already growing confused. In all probability the cross was the grave-monument of some notable person, and the opportunity was taken of naming the saint upon it. The inscription, like the titles in contemporary book-illustration, "Hic Matheus," "Hic est David" – may have merely meant "Here is Paulinus," not that he actually preached and celebrated mass at Dewsbury. At the same time it is quite possible that the minster possessed an important relic of his presence in South Yorkshire, and was anxious to claim some connection with him as, perhaps, patron-saint and founder of the Anglian church.

Now as Leland saw the cross nearly 800 years later, it was not destroyed by the Danes. This means that their attacks did not reach Dewsbury. That the western dales were free from Danes is shown by a bit of history preserved by Symeon of Durham; when York was captured, Archbishop Wulfhere found a safe refuge at Addingham in Wharfedale until the Danes had recognized Christianity and he could return to York. And as the Angles of the district were left in peace to carry on their own traditions, we should expect to find monuments here of their latest period, dating from the time following the Danish invasion. In fact, we do find a series of stones at Dewsbury which must be classed as works from the middle of the ninth century to the end of the tenth, when the Danes were in possession of the North and East Ridings.

The little crosshead i, j, k restored from a Dewsbury stone (i', j', k') now in the British Museum, is rather later than the Paulinus fragments, because of the angular twist (on the narrow side) which elsewhere is associated with late work. Its inscription is:- "rhtae becun aefter beornae. Gibiddad daer saule," [so-and-so set this up to one whose name ended in] berth, a monument to his lord. Pray for his soul.

The next seven stones are with others at Dewsbury church.

(l m) Part of a late ninth century cross, giving enough of the pattern for restoration. It is elaborately interlaced on both sides. The ornamental boss, the angular twist around it, and the figure-of-8 plait (not a Carrick bend but a closed double loop) show that this design is like i j k (see previous page) of the period following the finest developments of the Anglian school.

(n) The best part of a cross-head of Anglian form and with the Dewsbury cable-edging, but without pattern on either side. There is an incised line, an "Anglian moulding," round a plain surface, such as we shall see in other fragments evidently of very late Anglian work.

(o p) This rude head bears the random plaitwork of the tenth century, and an unusual centre on one side, formed of a Latin cross surrounded by an oval, instead of a circle. The Latin cross is much battered, but there can be no doubt that this is what the form was originally, or that the monument was set up some time well on after A.D. 900.

(q,r,s,t) A piece of cross-shaft with the cable and stiff scroll of late Anglian, with remains of what was pretty certainly a crucifix-figure on one side, and on the other a curious grotesque creature. Only the lower part of the head is left, but it is not human; and the creature holds something like a rudely carved man in its clumsy paw. It has been suggested that this is one of the symbols of death, which sometimes appear under the head of a late monument, as if dominated and subdued by the cross.

(u,v,w) This piece of cross-shaft is interesting from its elaborate tree scroll growing out of a foundation not unlike those used in the designs of thirteenth and fourteenth century gravelslabs, but seen also in other stones undoubtedly Anglian. The tree-scroll is derived from the early Northumbrians, but in this late form it is stiffened and robbed of much of its charm, though still forming a decorative pattern. On the edge of the shaft there are plain Anglian mouldings such as we have seen in Dewsbury.

(x) This bit of a shaft again shows the plain mouldings with a small panel of late Anglian scroll and berries.

(y,z &) The last of the figures gives two sides and the end of a broken stone of much importance, restored in a model at the Museum. Late in the ninth century the recumbent monument was introduced in imitation of a form used in Italy; the shrine tombs of Ravenna are well known to antiquaries. In Yorkshire there are similar monuments of this period at Crathorne (North Riding), York and Leeds; and fragment also at Crambe; this at Dewsbury seems to be the earliest of its class in the North, and by its ornament seems to date before A.D. 900. during the tenth century the idea was taken up by the Danes – that of a little house of the dead, with walls and gables and tiled roof; the Danes added figures of bears at the gable-ends and ornamented the walls with their own kind of basket-plait and dragons; and so invented the tenth century “hogback” seen at its finest at Brompton, near Northallerton, and in highly interesting and well-known examples at Heysham, near Lancaster, at Penrith, and at Gosforth, Cumberland.

We find then at Dewsbury monuments from about A.D. 850 to considerably after 900, showing that the minster lasted so long. Then, apparently, it came to an end as an abbey-church, for the Anglian abbey-system died out in the tenth century, replaced by the parochial system. There is at Dewsbury a head-stone which may be of the eleventh century, as well as the ornamented crosses n and o p. And in 1086, Domesday Book tells us, there was here a priest and a church, the church of a great parish extending westward to the Pennine watershed. This must have been the district over which Dewsbury ruled in the pre-Norman age.