Welcome to the blog of the Gloucestershire cross-slab survey. Cross-slabs are a class of medieval stone grave markers which are decorated with a cross motif; they are most commonly found at churches and monastic sites, although some are held in museums. The survey aims to record all surviving medieval cross-slabs across Gloucestershire, compile a gazetteer database, and publish a corpus of Gloucestershire cross-slabs.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Ampney St Mary

St Mary's church, Ampney St Mary

On the way back from Eastleach we stopped off at one of my favourite Gloucestershire churches: Ampney St Mary. The village of Ampney St Mary moved after the Black Death to Ashbrook, but the church remained, and is a real gem in a surprisingly peaceful location, despite the A road nearby. 

Eastleach Turville and Eastleach Martin: a river runs through them

A reconnaissance visit to the far southeast of the county, to the extremely picturesque Eastleach Martin and Eastleach Turville, where two churches are separated by the River Leach, and up to 1935 were separate parishes.
St Michael and St Martin's, Eastleach Martin

St Michael and St Martin's in Eastleach Martin is set beside the river, no cross-slabs were seen, but it is a lovely church, now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

Friday, 22 April 2016

More Minchinhampton...

A brief break in work allowed a return visit to Holy Trinity Minchinhampton which I had visited just before Christmas (http://gloscross-slabs.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/holy-trinity-minchinhampton.html).
In the early 20th century Greenhill noted five cross-slabs at Holy Trinity of which I had found three on the first visit -two are inside, set into the south wall of the nave, with a third lying broken outside against the east wall of the chancel. This time I managed to find a broken cross-slab propped up against the churchyard wall, half hidden behind gravestones, however the final cross-slab still eludes me. It is apparently set into the ceiling of the south transept, but the light pouring in through the fabulous rose window meant it was impossible to pick out a cross-slab amongst the many rectangular slabs used in the vaulting. Greenhill describes it as 'Cross fleury in nimbus, small cross patée on stem, foot lost, ?13th cent. Built into ceiling of S[outh] Tr[ansept]. So a return visit with a powerful torch is needed! 

Medieval cross-slab re-used (upside down) in 19th century building in Minchinhampton town
Holy Trinity was largely rebuilt in 1842 and we know that some slabs were removed from the church, although we weren't sure where they had ended up. A bit of local knowledge and exploration led to two new discoveries around the town. We did find a very nice but incomplete cross-slab re-used as a quoin in an early-mid 19th century building, it's design very similar to one of the slabs set inside the church. A bit further away a small footbridge has two large slabs which may be re-used cross-slabs or later ledgerstones, although they are half-buried under earth and very prickly bushes...
Another tip-off has alerted the team to another Minchinhampton cross-slab, although this one has ended up in Stonehouse...further investigation is needed!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

A quick trip to the Stanleys

A quick trip to the Stanleys -Leonard and King's Stanley- to check for cross-slabs and to shelter from a cold and sleety shower. I couldn't spot any cross-slabs at St George King's Stanley; but there are some nice early 19th century signed copper plaques on many of the flat gravestones in the churchyard.

St Swithun's, Leonard Stanley was formerly part of an Augustinian priory founded in c.1131. The church contains some wonderful Norman architecture and sculptural details, with crocodile-like beast headstops and ornate carved capitals showing Mary Magdalene wiping Christ's feet, and the Nativity, and an aumbry with a reset carved Norman tympanum of rather oddly depicted Adam and Eve. There is much to see and to work out in the sequence of additions and alterations -a church to spend some time in before resorting to the 'answer book' and checking against the excellent guide.

Norman tympanum, apparently of Adam and Eve...

There are two medieval memorial recesses in the south wall, and two charming early 17th century ledgers in the north transept, but no medieval cross-slabs visible inside the  church. Outside in the churchyard is a cross-slab however -a coffin lid decorated with an inscribed cross atop a plain shaft, probably 13th century in date. The cross-slab is quite weathered, however the sleet had picked out the trefoil terminal on one arm of the cross, which is set within a ring or nimbus.  
Cross-slab -a 13th century coffin lid

Tucked around the corner, propped against a boundary wall, is the head end of a medieval stone coffin, with a rounded recess for the deceased's head. The coffin would have been topped by a cross-slab -a carved coffin lid similar to the one surviving on site. 
Stone coffin with recess for head, 30cm scale

'Engineer Captain' H H Wilmore recorded twenty eight Gloucestershire stone coffins in 1939 (Transactions of Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol 61), but he doesn't mention this one. The coffin conforms to Wilmore's 'Type C' -'tapered coffins with or without a head recess' which is the most common type of stone coffin recorded, all but one having a recess for the head.

Each coffin lid would have fitted on top of a stone coffin, these two don't match, which means that we are missing another coffin and lid....

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

'Pale death knocks...'

A visit to Gloucester Cathedral to finish recording the wonderful Lancault font gave a spare hour to admire the architecture and have a quick look for cross-slabs that we can record....once we have finished the east of the county.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Holy Trinity Minchinhampton

A quick trip just down the road to Holy Trinity, Minchinhampton to record three cross-slabs.

Two late 12th to early 13th century tapered cross-slabs are set up in the nave and are fixed to the south wall. The upper slab is in two parts but cemented together. The bottom half is carved from different stone to the upper, and is probably Victorian. The cross-head is quite geometric and angular: an incised cross paté with ring in front, atop a shaft with an incised six-petalled flower halfway down. The base is carved with a simple two-stepped calvary with a cross inset.

Two small brass plaques are fixed to the front:

"This ancient grave stone formed part of the foundation of the old church at Minchinhampton on the removal of which in 1842 when the present edifice was erected it was found and presented to Mr John Chalk by the contractor for the new work.

In the reign of Henry the third when Minchinhampton church was taken down and rebuilt it is presumed this stone was taken from the then churchyard and used as building material"

Henry III ruled from 1207 to 1272, it will be interesting to check what 13th century fabric was taken down during the 1842 Thomas Foster renovation, the cross-slabs are certainly old enough to have been reused at this time.

Only the upper half survives of the lower slab, however the whole of the cross-head is present, despite some old damage on the right hand side. The cross-head is an incised expanded arm cross with a ring, and four pellets set within the internal panels.

A further cross-slab is lying on the path outside the east wall of the chancel; it is broken into two pieces, but seems safe enough for now. It had been cemented back together but broke, presumably when it was moved to its current position. The stone is a dark grey limestone and it is quite hard to make out the design, but it is actually a very nice bracelet cross with a cross-patée halfway down the shaft, the base ending in a rounded trefoil. It is similar to a cross-slab at St Kenelm Sapperton and is probably the same date - late 12th or early 13th century.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Cross-slab cross head style guide

One of the wonderful things about cross-slabs is the sheer variety of types of cross that adorn these stone slabs. It can however be more than a bit confusing as there are a huge range of individual designs, based on a number of simple forms, all with a bewildering set of names. 

To help in the recording of these slabs I've redrawn Peter Ryder's cross-head design figure from his 'The Medieval Cross Slab Grave Cover in County Durham', a fantastic book which is available from the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland. This figure gives a good introduction to the basic forms of cross, as well as showing how we describe the different aspects of each design through a combination of terms.

 If anyone would like a copy of the crib, then please email and I'll send a pdf through.