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.

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.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Burial vault found beneath ledger stone in Gloucester cathedral

Archaeologists have discovered a previously unknown family vault in the north transept of Gloucester Cathedral. The vault contains well preserved coffins belonging to the Hyett family dating from the 17th and 18th century. Burial vaults are not unexpected finds within our churches and cathedrals, however the undisturbed condition of this vault is perhaps surprising. The vault was found when building work -part of the Project Pilgrim refurbishment of the cathedral- meant a ledger stone set into the transept floor had to be moved, and a void under the slab allowed access into the vault.

Monday, 26 October 2015

No cross-slabs, but a very fine font....

No cross-slabs, but a trip to St Lawrence Sandhurst was still well worthwhile. The Romanesque lead font is now recorded, one of a set of six cast from the same mould to be found in Gloucestershire and dating from c1130-1140.

Read more at http://urban-archaeology.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/six-romanesque-lead-fonts-from.html

Friday, 16 October 2015

Getting ready....

Recent work has concentrated on gathering existing 'baseline' data before the fieldwork really starts in earnest. The Gloucester Diocese and A Church Near You have both kindly provided information on existing Church of England churches, this will form the core of a database of sites to visit -there are over 400 churches in Gloucestershire, although some are relatively modern, whilst others are redundant and not on these lists. Luckily we are starting with just the eastern part of the county, as covered in the 'Cotswolds' volume of the Buildings of England Series which has about half that number of churches. To this list will be added museums, archive stores and former monastic houses, all of which will need to be checked and potentially visited.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Volunteering with the project

Here at the Gloucestershire Cross-Slabs Survey we're looking for volunteers to help with our survey of medieval cross-slabs across the county. 

Medieval cross-slabs are a class of commemorative monument with a carved cross design, often with a shaft with a stepped base or calvary. The cross design may be simple or very complex in form, and there are sometimes additional inscriptions or motifs beside the cross. In England cross-slabs are found dating from the Anglo-Saxon period onwards, with fewer examples after the 14th century when monumental brasses and sculpted effigies become increasingly prevalent. 

Cross-slabs often appear to have been set in the church floor as grave covers, but many have been disturbed over the years and have been rebuilt into tower bases, stairs or windows, porches or reset in floors after Victorian renovation. Others are lying loose in or around their church. Cross-slabs are very vulnerable to wear and tear and other damage, especially if they are loose. They are a relatively neglected type of monuments that are found across the country, with numerous fine examples in Gloucestershire.

The Gloucestershire Cross-slab Recording Project proposes to record all known cross-slabs in Gloucestershire, starting with the area covered in Buildings of England: The Cotswolds, before moving on to the area covered in The Vale and Forest of Dean. Churches, monastic sites and museums will all be checked, and any cross-slabs will be fully recorded, including accurate scale drawings and photographs.

Initial work will include the collation of existing records of cross-slabs, and the compilation of a GIS-linked database containing details of past observations and known slabs. The project will then move on to a phase of recording and the creation of an illustrated gazetteer of Gloucestershire cross-slabs. The database will be modelled on the surveys of Peter Ryder in the north-east of England to allow comparison https://sites.google.com/site/crossslabs/about-the-project 

We would like to hear from  anyone with an interest in, or any information on, medieval cross-slabs in the county, or who would like to get involved in the project. You may know of cross-slabs in your local church, or would like to help search for and record slabs in our visits to churches. If you would like to help with the recording then all training will be provided and although not every church will have a cross-slab, every church is worth a visit!

Please contact the project via email at chiz@urban-archaeology.co.uk. Recording work is planned to start in November 2015.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Although in the city of Bristol, the church of St Mary Redcliffe lies within the ceremonial county of Gloucestershire and along with other Bristol churches will be included in this survey of Gloucestershire cross-slabs.

St Mary's must be one of the most beautiful parish churches in England with both Decorated and Perpendicular elements, and contains a number of ornate memorials including some to the Bristol merchants who paid for much of the building work. Less well known is the small number of medieval cross-slabs which can still be found in the church despite the renovations of the 19th century which involved the relaying of much of the floor, and presumably the loss or burial of many memorial and cross-slabs. RW Paul illustrated cross-slabs from St Mary's in his 1882 work 'An account of some of the Incised and Sepulchral slabs of North West Somersetshire', however two of these slabs had been lost by the 20th century when Frank Greenhill listed eight extant cross-slabs within the church. Greenhill noted that three of these slabs had been lost before a return visit in 1948.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Standing on the shoulders of giants....

Cross-slabs have been studied for many years with the seminal works being 'A Manual for the Study of the Sepulchral Slabs and Crosses of the Middle Ages' by  E.L. Cutts in 1849, followed by 'Christian Monuments in England and Wales' by the Rev. C. Boutell in 1854 and K.E. Styan's 1902 work 'A Short History of Sepulchral Cross-slabs with reference to other emblems found thereon'. In Gloucestershire Ulric Daubeney noted cross-slabs ('sepulchral stones') in his 1921 'Ancient Cotswold Churches' but aside from short notes there has not been an overview of Gloucestershire cross-slabs since Butler and Jones in 1972 (Bris. & Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. 91 (1972) pp 150-8, 'The Cross-Slabs of Gloucestershire'.