Time on my hands
Wandering around Hexham Abbey
We took a trip up to Hexham, I spent half an hour wandering around the Abbey. As you walk into the Abbey you are faced with a Roman Tombstone, discovered in 1881, it is a memorial to Flavinus, a standard bearer. The carving depicts Flavinus riding over, what I presume is, a native Briton, the victors boot planted on his victims backside. The triumphs of past conquests are often displayed our churches, it is rare to see a memorial depicting our own islands conquest and defeat.
The original Saxon church was built using stone from nearby Roman sites. The church has been attacked many times during raids by the Vikings and later the Scots.
To the left of the High Altar is the Leschman Chantry Chapel, containing the tomb of Rowland Leschman, Prior of the Abbey from 1480 to 1491. The carvings on the tomb are an absolute joy.
Seeking the Romanesque iii – North Grimston
Heading north out of Wolds I crossed into North Yorkshire and stopped to check out St Nicholas church at North Grimston. The church was built in the 12th century and has been remodelled over the years.
There are a number of corbels on the south wall, two of which are reputed to be of the exhibitionist type, one depicts a character gripping his ankles baring his backside and groin to the viewer, the other is a bloke in a similar position but with his penis in his hand. Sadly both are very worn and the detail is lost.
Rita Wood thinks that this carving of two animals may once have been from the original south doorway which was replaced in the 13th century. It reminded me of the small panel on the church at Newton under Roseberry.
I tried the church door, fully prepared to be disappointed, it opened, another jaw-dropping moment. I’d seen pictures of this stunning font but to have it there in front of me, to be able to put my hands on it, is an indescribable joy.
The font is one of the biggest in the country and depicts the the last supper and the crucifixion. There is a depiction of a bishop too, it seems to be the way of things that the bishop gets to feature on the font, I guess he commissioned this thing of beauty so pretty much deserves to be there.
The chancel arch, if I were to see this in any of our local churches I’d get quite excited but all I could think about was the magnificent font.
Back outside the church I took another wander around the walls. There are a number of small crosses scratched into the east and west walls, the crosses have been defined by four dots. I presume these are consecration crosses, places where the bishop anointed the original church with holy oil.
In old Norse Grimr is used as a byname for Óðinn. The name is identical with ON grimr ‘a person who conceals his name’, lit. ‘a masked person’, and related to OE grima ‘a mask’. It refers, like Grimnir to Óðinn‘s well known habit of appearing in disguise. No dout the Saxons used Grim in the same Way.E. Ekwall
The Buildings of England Yorkshire: York and the East Riding – Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave. 1997
Romanesque Yorkshire. Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Occasional Paper No. 9 – Rita Wood. 2012
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. Eilert Ekwall. 1974
Crossing the muddy, cattle-churned field from the Hutton Road, there are various earthworks visible in the low winter sun. This was once the site of a Medieval leper hospital overlain by a nineteenth century tramway, built to transport ironstone from the local mines.
I follow the path uphill, the woodland sits in the winter shadow of the escarpment. I stumble up the steep, muddy track to the lichen-splattered, table-top outcrop, the Hanging Stone.
Many visitors have left their mark on the outcrop.
Out of the shadows, walking from Ryston Nab along Ryston Bank, warmed by the low winter sun. A line of prehistoric barrows follows the scarp edge, the ancestors watch over Bousdale. An intake wall, now in ruins, has been built across the barrows, the tumbled wall stones contain fossils. There were once other cairns here, marked on the early maps, erased by the forester’s plough.
I leave the footpath and follow a line of boundary stones across Hutton and Newton Moors. The stones follow a low ridge and have been erected on top of prehistoric mounds. The mounds are most likely Bronze Age in date, all have been disturbed by excavation. The boundary stones date from the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries and mark the parish boundaries between Newton, Pinchinthorpe, Hutton Lowcross, Guisborough and Great Ayton.
Ryston: rhiw – Welsh ‘hill, ascent’
Roseberry Topping – Othensberg 1119
Bright book of the stone
Travelling stones – All Saints Old Church Skelton
..that of all the unfortunately plain – not to say ugly – structures which do duty for churches in Cleveland this is about the plainest and the most tasteless. One ancient buttress, of Early English character, remains on the north side of the chancel, and that is all which is left to testify to the former existence on this site of a really ecclesiastical building.History of Cleveland Ancient & Modern Vol.1 Rev J. C. Atkinson. 1874
The lovely Norman font was brought from the ruined church of St Andrew at Upleatham. Rita Wood describes it as square with corner columns and central panels that have bold, well-carved geometric patterns. She tells us that there are similar fonts at Marske and Sneaton that are likely to have been carved by the same person.
There are a number of stone fragments inside the church including Upleatham’s Big Stone.
One of the stone fragments is the remains of a Hogback Grave that has probably been re-used as a building block. it is described as a child’s gable-end grave slab. It is classified as a Type E (dragonesque) Hogback, a type confined to the east coast of Yorkshire. It closely resembles two examples found at Lythe.
The Hogback stone has had a bit of a journey. It was found during an excavation at Upleatham old church, it was then moved into the new church in the village. When the new church was converted into a private home the stone was moved to Kirkleatham museum, where it is currently listed as being located.
History of Cleveland Ancient & Modern Vol.1 Rev. J.C. Atkinson. 1874
Romanesque Yorkshire. Rita Wood. 2012
Yorkshire – A Gazetteer of Anglo-Saxon & Viking Sites. Guy Points. 2007
Brock Luvs Jody
For the past two decades or so I have been researching the links between Cumbria and North Yorkshire. For most of that time my researches have focused upon Prehistory and the movement of people, objects and beliefs.
In recent years my focus has broadened and I’ve become interested in the post- Roman period, a time when our identity was more about being Northern than being English. With this in mind I decided to return to Cumbria and spend a couple of days travelling around the Eden Valley.
On trips like this I can never completely detach myself from Prehistory but I consciously decided to limit the megalithic sites to a couple and loosely focus upon looking for remnants from the post-Roman period onwards.
The journey started at the western foot of the Stainmore Pass at Brough. For me, Brough has always been the gatekeeper of the Eden valley. The Romans recognised the strategic value of the site and built a large fort there called Verteris, later in the 11th century the Normans chose to build a castle on the Roman site. When seen from the A66 the ruined castle of Brough is generally my first glimpse of the red sandstone of the Eden valley.
St Michaels Church Brough
In the bible, Michael the archangel was Gods’ General, leading the forces of heaven in the fight against Satan. It is fitting that the a church built within the confines of a ‘pagan’ roman fort should be dedicated to him. Perhaps the site was once occupied by a Roman temple and continued to be used by local people until the arrival of Christianity. The current church was founded in 12th century and has undergone a number of improvements in the years since.
There are many masons marks on the exterior walls of the church. Most of them are in the form of a crossed ‘Z’. I am guessing that the stones as they were quarried and were marked with the orientation of the cross indicating how the stone should be aligned, but this is only a guess.
Built into the wall of the porch of the church are a number of large cross slabs and a tribute to the Roman commander of the fort. The stone was found in 1880 during building work to the church. The inscription translates as For the Emperor Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus and for Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar … in the consulship of Lateranus and Rufinus.
The Brough Stone – A Roman tribute, written in Greek, to a young Syrian who died a long way from home.
A lovely Norman arch
A possible Celtic/Romano-British carved head and a hexafoil, a symbol of purity that has been used elsewhere as a folk-magic symbol of protection.
Andy Goldsworthy has built one of his beautiful Cone Pinfolds in the grounds of the local school.