..with Mr Vasey
Piercebridge – Fawcett – Stanwick
..with Mr Vasey
Piercebridge – Fawcett – Stanwick
..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
I started the day with a walk around Penrith in search of coffee and hogbacks.
A monument in St Andrews churchyard known the the Giant’s Grave. Legend has it that it is the grave of a knight called Ewain Cæsarius, the four hogbacks are said to represent four wild boars that he killed in the forest of Inglewood. In reality the monument is comprised of four hogback stones and two ancient crosses. All of which have seen better days.
A Hogback is an Anglo- Scandinavian grave marker dating to between the 10th and 12th centuries. They are generally found in locations that were settled by the Danes.
I was keen to get moving so didn’t take the time to have a look around St Andrews church. I later learned that it was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, I will have to return.
The village is steeped in history, located on a Roman road and river crossing point, the route later became a major drove road between England and Scotland. The road was also a main route for invaders, marauders, reivers and moss troopers.
The local church founded in the 9th century is a wonderful illustration of the history of this part of the north of England. The church is dedicated to Saint Cuthbert as this was one of the resting places for his body when monks removed it from Lindesfarne following the 9th century Viking conquest of the kingdom of Northumbria.
A beautiful stained glass depicting Cuthbert with an Eider or ‘Cuddy’s Duck’ at his feet
The church tower looks out of proportion with the rest of the church, this is because it was built in the 13th century as a defensive tower, a sanctuary from the invading Scots. The stone walls of the tower are 6ft thick with thin window slits and a narrow iron entrance door. This style of building is known as a Pele.
Throughout the Middle Ages the North of England was a dangerous place. Following the Harrowing of the North by the Normans, Scottish raiding parties would regularly move down into England to steal cattle and goods and take slaves. The 12th century Chronicler Simeon of Durham wrote Scarce a little house in Scotland was to be found without English slaves of one or other sex.
Aside from the regular raids by brigands from the north, between 1060 and 1745 there were at least 10 formal invasions by Scottish armies into England.
The 17th century armour mounted on the church walls bears witness to the area’s turbulent past.
For me, the crowning glory of the church is the 11th Century Romanesque arch
A Medieval cross slab and a Roman altar can be found in the porch
These 3 large boulders of red sandstone in the graveyard are a bit of a puzzle. I cannot find any references to them.
A while ago I was researching dragon lore in our area and came across a reference to the Ryedale Dragon. This wasn’t a reference to a specific dragon but to a carved motif that has been found on a number of Anglo-Saxon and Viking grave slabs and cross shafts in the Ryedale area. The design comprises a single bound dragon shown in S-shape with it’s jaws open. It is similar to the better known Jelling Design, named after the animal that decorates a silver cup found at a royal burial site in Jutland in Denmark.
I’d read of a 10th Century grave slab carved with a Ryedale Dragon in the church at Levisham and headed off to find it.
The slab itself is tucked away beneath the pulpit and is in two pieces, access and available light mean that getting a decent photograph can be quite challenging. I think I need to buy a remote flash and learn yoga.
Whilst I was in the area I decided to call into St. Andrew’s Church in Middleton.
This lovely 8th Century cross is on the exterior wall of the church, it is described as a distinctive St. Cuthbert-style.
Inside the church there are a number of stones on display.
A 10th Century wheel head cross is decorated with the figure of a hunter with a spear and a short sword called a scramasax. There are also two hounds and a stag.
A 10th Century wheelhead cross is decorated with a warrior in a pointed helmet, spear, sword, scramasax, shield and axe. The interpretation of the figure wavers between a pagan in his grave and a lord on his gifstol (an ornate seat or throne).
Unfortunately I didn’t research this church before I visited it. Crosses A & B both have bound dragons carved on their rear faces. I didn’t learn this until I returned home.
An 11th Century ring head cross decorated with knotwork and a ring plait.
A section of stonework decorated with a bearded warrior with a knife and scramasax. The second stone is a section from a cross shaft decorated with the head of a warrior.
Slightly less ancient additions to the fabric of the church.
On my way home I decide to call into Lastingham, I have visited this church many times. The village sits in a verdant valley on the edge of Spaunton Moor. The crypt beneath the church is one of my favourite places, it is wonderfully atmospheric and contains a number of beautiful carved stones.
Yorkshire A Gazetteer of Anglo-Saxon & Viking Sites. Guy Points. Rihtspell Publishing. 2007
Stone illustrations taken from – Anglian and Anglo-Danish Sculpture in the North Riding of Yorkshire. W.G. Collinwood. The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Volume XIX via Google Books
The circular churchyard of St John the Baptist’s church is located in the middle of a late Iron Age royal enclosure, this suggests that the origins of the church are at least pre-Norman. Recent archaeological studies have suggested that the slightly elevated ground upon which the church sits may have at some times of the year been surrounded by water.
The present church dates from the thirteenth century and was renovated in 1868
The Anglo Saxon cross shaft dates from the ninth century
Lythe – From Old Norse hilth ‘slope’.
The church at Lythe is dedicated to Saint Oswald. Oswald was born on in the kingdom of Dal Riata, an Irish-speaking region covering the west coast of Scotland and part of Ulster. He converted to Christianity and had strong links with the monastery of Iona. When his uncle King Edwin was killed by a Welsh king in 633, Oswald claimed the kingdom and successfully fought off his rivals to become king. Oswald then invited Irish monks from Iona to found a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne.
Oswald’s ambition led him to successfully expand his kingdom throughout many parts of Britain and through both conquest and alliance he became the overlord of many British kingdoms. He was also instrumental in the conversion many Anglo-Saxon kings to Christianity. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles refer to him as, Bretwalda, a king of kings.
Oswald was killed by the Mercians at the Battle of Maserfield, at a place generally identified with Oswestry (Oswald’s Tree) and soon became regarded as a saint, the first Northumbrian saint and martyr. his head was interred in Durham Cathedral with the remains of Saint Cuthbert.
It is not known when the original church was founded, the first written reference to the church is in the Domesday book. A large number of funeral remains and Viking gravestones known as Hogbacks have been found indicating that the site of the church was once an important Viking burial ground. A number of these stones, which date from the Viking and Medieval periods, are on permanent display within the church.
Sound Artist and all-round great bloke, Chris Whithead has produced a short film showing the interior of the church accompanied by an ethereal soundtrack of Chris’s field recording. Lythe Church by Chris Whitehead
You can find more of Chris’s work here Taphonomy – Chris Whitehead: Soundwork & Writing