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, 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....