Volume II: Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire-North-of-the-Sands

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Current Display: Kirkby Stephen 01, Westmorland Forward button Back button

Overview
National Grid Reference of Place of Discovery
Present Location
In church
Evidence for Discovery
Found during restoration of chancel in 1847 (Hodgson 1869-79, 186). Stephens (1884b, 300) says found 1870 in repairs to church
Church Dedication
St John
Present Condition
Face D worn; otherwise good
Description

Slab-like cross-shaft. The three surviving ornamented faces are flanked by a flat-band moulding.

A (broad): Most of this side is occupied by the figure of a man, arms hanging from broad rounded shoulders and with palms spread. His feet are shown in profile. His mouth, eyes and rectangular nose are incised. Below the mouth is a beard, or (more likely) a chin/neck running into the open neckline of his clothing; the neckline of the garment carries a border. The figure is bound by a circular strap which passes across his stomach and behind his legs; the wrists and calves are bound to the circle by rings. Flanking his head are two volutes and there are pellets scattered across the panel. Between his feet is the apex of a band moulding, shaped like an inverted V, which is linked by further mouldings to the flanking border.

B (narrow): Three-strand plain plait, miscut in lower left corner.

C (broad): Recut.

D (narrow): Simple twist.

Discussion

The pointed moulding beneath the figure may have been part of the scene below. More likely, however, it is an example of a north-western type of panel organization seen more fully on two round-shaft derivative crosses in Lancashire at Bolton le Moors and Whalley (Brown 1937, pl. III). On these carvings the swagged lower framing characteristic of round-shaft derivative crosses has been adapted so as to set the swag at the corners of the face, and not at the centre as is the normal fashion. The pre-Viking crosses at Sandbach, Cheshire show that this eccentric adaptation already existed in the north-west before the tenth century (Radford 1957). The two lines which curve in from the border to meet the inverted V moulding at Kirkby Stephen would thus define triangular panels equivalent to those on the large shaft at Sandbach.

The figure has large shoulders and hanging arms. Similar deformed men are spread across Northumbrian sculptures from the Solway to the Tees valley during the Viking period (Collingwood 1907a, 281; Cramp 1984, pls. 61, 292; 63, 297). They also occur in the Isle of Man (Kermode 1907, nos. 51, 97), which may be the immediate source of this stylization.

Ring and bar bindings have a long history in Scandinavian art and the device is frequently encountered in the Viking colonies (Wilson and Klindt-Jensen 1980, passim). Close parallels for the Kirkby Stephen arrangement are provided by the depiction of Wayland on a shaft from Leeds Museum, Yorkshire (Bailey 1980, fig. 16b) and at Great Clifton. Such parallels, however, do not illuminate the significance of the figure. If the curling volutes by the man's head could be interpreted as horns then there might be good reason to interpret the figure as the 'Bound Devil', by which Description the stone is popularly known. There are, however, no clear parallels for depictions of the devil with horns turned down. The nearest analogue is provided by a carving from Gainford, co. Durham, but on that stone the horns turn upwards and, unfortunately, there is no contextual evidence to indicate that even this figure has infernal associations either (Cramp 1984, pl. 61, 192). The 'horns' at both Kirkby Stephen and Gainford could, in fact, be merely variations of the decorative volutes seen at Kippax and Kirkheaton in Yorkshire (Collingwood 1915a, 201, 208). Alternatively, it is possible that the Kirkby Stephen figure is better compared to the local figures at Brigham (no. 5) and Great Clifton (no. 1), but in practice those comparisons bring us no nearer to a solution as to the significance of the carving. In the present state of our knowledge it is impossible to arbitrate between such rival potential identifications as the bound devil, Christ's struggle with the devil, Loki, Gunnar, Mors, or the damned in Hell – a list which represents only the most likely of a long series of possibilities.

Date
Tenth century
References
Stephens 1879–80, 308–10; Hodgson 1869–79, 186, 188, pl. II; Calverley 1883b, 158; Calverley 1883c, 400; Hodgson 1883, 11, pl. II; Stephens 1884b, frontis; Stephens 1878–83, 379–80, 383, fig. on 379; Allen 1884a, 280–1, fig. 100; Stephens 1884a, 178–90; Stephens 1884–9, 1, 7–8; Allen 1885, 355; Allen 1887a, 259; Calverley 1899a, 217–18, fig. facing 217; Olrik 1902, 244; Kermode 1904, 24; Stevens 1904, 88; Collingwood 1906–7a, 133; Collingwood 1906–7b, 408; Collingwood 1907a, 280, 281, 385; Collingwood 1912a, 31–2; Smith 1913–14, 66; Collingwood 1915a, 199, 289; Collingwood 1915c, 310; Collingwood 1920, 54; Scott 1920, 134; Collingwood 1922–3, 216; Collingwood 1926a, 3; Collingwood 1927a, 158, fig. 187; R.C.H.M. 1936, lxvi, 142, pl. 7; Kendrick 1941a, 127; Kendrick 1949, 90, 125, pl. LXI; Holmqvist 1951, 12; Stone 1955, 31, pl. 18a; Cramp 1965b, 7; Pevsner 1967, 17, 265; Davidson 1969, 104, pl. on 101; Schmidt 1973, 70; Bailey 1974a, I, 242–9, 381, II, 171–2, pls.; Wilson 1978, 143; Bailey 1980, 138–40, 220, pl.; Graham-Campbell 1980b, 381; Wilson and Klindt-Jensen 1980, 107, pl. XLIIIa; Cramp 1982, 17; Margeson 1983, 99; Bailey 1984, 22; Cramp 1984, 82
Endnotes

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