John Piper made me do it – Romanesque East Yorkshire Pt.1

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about Romanesque stone carvings recently so decided to take a trip into East Yorkshire to seek out a couple of sites. My previous brief explorations of Romanesque East Yorkshire were inspired by a series of images taken by John Piper so once again I allowed Piper to be my guide. Scrolling through the Tate’s collection of his photographs I found an image of a font in the church at Langtoft. A combination of the image, and the Scandinavian sounding name of the village, gave me a destination.

A diversion into Prehistory

Driving into the Wolds I passed through the village of Duggleby. I stopped briefly to say hello to the Great Barrow of Duggleby Howe, formerly known as Odin’s Howe.
Dating from the Neolithic, the Great Barrow sits at the centre of a concentric ditched enclosure with an external diameter of 370m making it one of the largest Neolithic monuments in Britain. The enclosure, discovered in 1979, is only visible as a cropmark.

Back to the Romanesque

Moving on to Langtoft I arrived at the lovely church located on the outskirts of the village and was greeted by one of my favourite signs ‘Church Open’.

The church is very nice, Nikolaus Pevsner tells us that the tower is early C13 and that the church was thoroughly restored in 1900-3

To be honest I wasn’t here to admire the church, I was here to see this gem, a drum shaped baptismal font.

The font came from the nearby deserted Medieval village of Cottam. All that remains of Cottam are a series of cropmarks and a ruined brick-built church.

Pevsner describes the carvings on the font as primeval, I like that. Rita Wood describes this panel as a complex threefold tree (probably a Tree of Life, the heavenly reward)…In this tree, two parts rooted in heaven, entwined with one standing on earth. The tree of life or world tree is an archetype which occurs in almost all major belief systems. It generally represents a link between different realms, a cosmic axis.

This scene depicts the fall of man, Eve is tempting Adam with forbidden fruit while the serpent looks on.

This carving represents the crucifixion of Saint Andrew on his X-shaped cross.

Rita Wood tells us that this is a carving of a combination of a bird and a snake. I think it could just as easily be a Wyvern. The combination of a rooster and a snake is known as a Cockatrice. The Cockatrice is mentioned in the bible, it is said to have the ability to kill with just one look, the only animal immune to its glare is a weasel.

This carving depicts the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence. Lawrence was martyred by placing him upon a large iron grid set over hot coals. Whilst undergoing this horrible procedure Lawrence is reputed to have said to his torturer, “you can turn me over now, this side is done”. For this the catholic church made him the patron saint of cooks and comedians.

The final carving depicts St. Margaret of Antioch bursting out of the gut of a dragon. Margaret survived being swallowed by the beast because she was wearing a crucifix. The cross irritated the beast’s gut causing it to split and expel the saint. Margaret was finally killed by beheading.

I took a walk around the outside of the church. During the restoration of the church, most of the original stonework was redressed I was however able to find a few bits of graffiti including one possible Marian mark. The overlapping Vs of the mark are thought to represent the Virgin Mary.


John Piper’s photographs of Yorkshire

Duggleby Howe aerial view via Google Earth

Map Image

The Archaeology of Yorkshire. An assessment at the beginning of the 21st century. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Paper No.3. 2003

The Buildings of England. Yorkshire: York & the East Riding. Nikolaus Pevsner & David Neave. 1997

Romanesque Yorkshire. Rita Wood. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Paper No.9. 2012

Fylingdales Moor 2004

In 2004 Graeme Chappell and I were fortunate enough to visit the ongoing excavation on Fylingdales Moor.

It was in what was thought to be an early Bronze Age ring cairn that a late Neolithic intricately carved stone was found. This has become the best known discover on the moor made in the aftermath of the fire. A further stone bore grooves and cup-marks similar to those found on the nearby earthfast rocks. The stones have been placed in a ring as the end point of what may have been a long period of ritual significance.

Fylingdales – Wildfire & Archaeology. Blaise Vyner. 2007

Megaliths Exhibition – Zetland FM

I had the pleasure of chatting about our current exhibition to Dave Robson of Zetland FM. Interview starts at around 2:20:00

Holwick Scar – Whinstone

A few weeks ago Graham and I were stood on Harberry Hill looking south across Teesdale. I could see the scar running beneath the scarp edge of Holwick Moor. I was trying to figure out how I had previously overlooked such a massive outcrop of limestone, Graham put me right ‘it’s the Whin Sill’..of course it is. On returning home my mind kept taking me back to the Scar, we decided to return.

The Tees – Powler’s frozen suds.

Frost-shattered stone.

The road to Holwick

The Scar
Sentinel – Columnar Jointing
Drumlins and The Scar – Holwick from Castles.
Above the Scar – Holwick Fell, Prehistoric cairns poke through the coarse grasses.
Above the Scar – Carboniferous Limestone outcrops on the fell top.
Above the Scar – Sand Force waterfall, mid-thaw.
Below the Scar – Low Pikestone barn.

North – Tyrebagger Recumbent Stone Circle.

Tyrebagger – The Field of Acorns

Plan – Coles, F. R. (1899). Report on Stone Circles in Kincardineshire (North), and part of Aberdeenshire, with measured Plans and Drawings, obtained under the Gunning Fellowship.. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 34. Vol 34, pp. 139-198. via the Archaeology Data Service

Happy Birthday Stan Beckensall

This beautiful book has been published to celebrate the 90th birthday of Stan Beckensall. It is available as a Paperback or an open access eBook.

Stan Beckensall is renowned for his work, done on an entirely amateur basis, discovering, recording and interpreting Atlantic rock art in his home county of Northumberland and beyond. Presented on his 90th birthday, this diverse and stimulating collection of papers celebrates his crucial contribution to rock art studies, and looks to the future.

Presented to Stan Beckensall on his 90th birthday, this diverse and stimulating collection of papers celebrates his crucial contribution to rock art studies, and also looks to the future. It should be of value to students of prehistoric Britain and Ireland, and anyone with an interest in rock art, for many decades to come.

Stan has done a phenomenal amount of work over recent decades, on an entirely amateur basis, discovering, recording and interpreting Atlantic rock art (‘cup-and-ring marks’) in his home county of Northumberland and elsewhere. Much of this work was done in the 1970s and 1980s when the subject, now increasingly regarded as mainstream within Neolithic studies, was largely shunned by professional archaeologists.

Anyone with an interest in rock art is greatly indebted to Stan, not only for his work and his wisdom, so graciously shared, but also, as the contributors to this volume make clear, for the inspiration he has provided, and continues to provide, for work undertaken by others.