Volume X: The West Midlands

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Current Display: Abson 1, Gloucestershire Forward button Back button

Overview
National Grid Reference of Place of Discovery
Present Location
Set in the south wall of the church, externally
Evidence for Discovery
None. First noted by George Forest Browne (1903, 172), probably reporting an observation made after his appointment as bishop of Bristol in 1897. The eastern two-thirds of the nave was apparently rebuilt in the seventeenth century with further restoration in 1900–1 (Verey and Brooks 2002, 136–7). M.H.
Church Dedication
St James
Present Condition
Very worn and covered with lichen. Only one face visible.
Description

Part of a tapering cross-shaft with a broad-headed creature caught in tangled strands of median-incised interlace. The stone is set upside down in the wall. The creature's head, which survives in outline only, has a rounded snout and is turned in to the corner of the surrounding flat-edged moulding. The body is also fairly weathered, but it is possible to see that it was outlined with a narrow, flat moulding and infilled with squarish panels. The stone is set upside down in the wall. The creature's head, which survives in outline only, has a rounded snout and is turned in to the corner of the surrounding flat-edged moulding. The body is also fairly weathered, but it is possible to see that it was outlined with a narrow, flat moulding and infilled with squarish panels.

Discussion

The creature on this cross-shaft is very similar to one on the Wotton Pitch shaft from Gloucester (Gloucester London Road 1, Ill. 361). This parallel suggests that the Abson creature should be dated quite early in the development of Colerne-type animal carving, a style that was widespread across central and southern England in the ninth and early tenth centuries (see Chapter VI, p. 69).

R.M.B.

Abson was a chapel-of-ease to Pucklechurch, a little over a mile to the north. At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, Pucklechurch (including Abson) was a manor of 20 hides belonging to Glastonbury Abbey (Moore 1982, no. 8,1). Indeed the name Abson (which is not itself attested before the twelfth century) denotes ‘abbot's tun' (Smith 1964–5, iii, 71). As ornament of Colerne-style is found both at Glastonbury (Cramp 2006, 42–8) and at Abson (no. 1), it is tempting to explain the presence of a cross of ninth-century date at Abson in this style in terms of Glastonbury's ownership of the Pucklechurch estate. However, such an explanation is less than straightforward, since Pucklechurch is described as having been a royal vill when King Edmund (939–46) was murdered there in 946 (Abrams 1996, 212). It is not clear when Glastonbury obtained Abson, and the surviving charter materials are of some complexity. The documentation includes a charter of King Eadred dated 950 (Sawyer 1968, no. 553); this charter, which is certainly not authentic in its present form, claims to be a restoration of land at Pucklechurch previously alienated from Glastonbury. However, Abrams (1996, 12, 211–15) considers it improbable that the charter conveys any genuine information in this respect. If Glastonbury did not hold Pucklechurch (and with it Abson) in the ninth century, then Abson presumably had a different name, and it must be purely coincidental that a cross with Colerne-style ornament is found at this minor location subsequently owned by Glastonbury.

M.H.
Date
Mid ninth century.
References
Dobson 1933, 266; Verey and Brooks 2002, 136–7
Endnotes

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