St. James Church cross, Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 5305 7692

Archaeology & History

As with many old churches, St. James’ at the northern side of the village has remains of old cross fragments that can be seen inside.  They were described at some length in W.S. Calverley’s (1899) excellent work on such monuments.  Mr Langham (1972) also gave a good account of the respective cross fragments in his short work on this history of the church, listing the sections as a, b, c, d and e.  He wrote:

“a) the greater part of a wheel-head, the reverse side of which has a sunk centre instead of a raised boss, making it a five hole cross.  Calverley remarks, “a rarity in the district.”

“b) probably the top of a shaft having on its face a panel with a defaced figure, and conventional ornaments on the side.

“c) probably the lower part of a shaft with figures in two panels, and with incised interlacing designs on the reverse side “of late Scandinavian type, resembling fibulae of the Viking Age.”  On the face, the lower panel is Christ risen or rising from the tomb. He is trampling on a serpent and carries a palm of victory in his left hand.  The panel above has two figures, suggested by Calverley to be “either John or Mary, or two angels.”

“d) the neck of a cross. Calverley notes that the execution of the wheel-head and the shaft-fragments was by a hacking not a chiselling method, and he makes the comment: “The shafts and head at Burton are similar in workmanship to those at Halton.  The Halton crosses and not Norse in style, but are like late pre-Norman work in Yorkshire, where the Danes lived.”

“e) a part of a second shaft with a zigzag pattern.  Calverley says that “it is neatly chiselled, and the designs suggests a Norman date, although it seems to belong to a cross of Saxon type.”  The Royal Commission volume dates it as the 10th or 11th century.”

St James church cross (by M.D.S. Brown-Smith)

The Royal Commission volume dates the cross shafts as “probably late 10th century.”  Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in a recent book,  Guide to Cumberland and Westmorland states specifically that, “Christ, the Virgin and St. John are on the Burton-in-Kendale cross.” This is too explicit a statement in view of the deterioration in the detail.

Nearby to the northeast used found to be the remains of a holy well dedicated to St. Helen.  Does anyone have further information about it?

References:

  1. Calverley, W.S., Notes on the Early Sculptured Crosses, Shrines and Monuments in the Early in the Present Diocese of Carlisle, T. Wilson: Kendal 1899.
  2. Langham, John G., Parish Church of St. James, Burton-in-Kendal, Mayoh Press: Carnforth 1972.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

St James Church Cross

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St James Church Cross 54.185900, -2.720895 St James Church Cross

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