Volume III: York and East Yorkshire

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Current Display: Sherburn 02, Eastern Yorkshire Forward button Back button

National Grid Reference of Place of Discovery
Present Location
Church tower, inside
Evidence for Discovery
Presumably discovered during restoration of church in 1910 (Collingwood 1911a, 269)
Church Dedication
St Hilda
Present Condition
Broken at bottom, and badly worn on face C; other faces obscured by mortar and in need of careful cleaning

The shaft tapers noticeably, and though the designs on all sides break off at the top, the presence of a tenon joint protruding slightly from the top end suggests that the shaft was arranged compositely. There is a worn cable edge moulding to the shaft with an inner moulding, also possibly cable, though rather worn, on each face.

A (broad): At the top is a bird-like motif, consisting of a half-cylindrical stem which is slightly splayed at each end. Its lower end has a transverse bar above a fan of three truncated triangular layers with a trapezoid filler in the centre; it resembles a bird's tail but is formalized. This element is flanked by vertical strips arranged as tapering wings. Below is the top of a semicircular human head, surmounted by a dished halo.

B (narrow): The panel contains a run of interlace: four registers of half pattern A, executed in plain, flattish strands, the units carefully graded to take account of the taper of the shaft.

C (broad): This face is not 'defaced' (Collingwood 1911a, fig. g on 272), but is very encrusted, especially with mortar. Within the double moulding is an enlaced profile beast, possibly interlocked with another. It is bound by its extended ear and an incised fetter which loops in front of its chest. The jaws are short and agape.

D (narrow): Within the double moulding is a run of interlace: two complete units and parts of two others of simple pattern E (Stafford Knots). The strands are median-incised.

E (top): There is a slightly protruding tenon.


Collingwood regarded this fragment as related to shaft no. 3. Whilst the stone type is comparable, the ornament of the narrow sides is dissimilar. The iconography and style of the two shafts are, however, very closely related.

The combination of the saint and a winged motif is found on the Leeds Parish Church shaft, West Riding (Lang 1976, 90–2) which shares no. 3's depiction of Weland (Ill. 920). The ecclesiastical portrait with dished halo is a feature which continues from the Anglian ninth-century shafts of Yorkshire through the Scandinavian phase and into the eleventh century, a mark of the continuing Anglian tradition within Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture. Its presence alongside a Jellinge-style profile animal asserts a tenth-century context for it here, and indeed the Leeds shaft is probably contemporary with this Sherburn fragment.

The Jellinge beast (possibly part of a beast-chain) resembles those on the North Frodingham cross-head (no. 1; Ill. 696) and the disposition within the panel has more in common with the York Minster shafts than with the bound dragons of Ryedale which lie only a few miles to the north. Hence, the Sherburn site did not employ the Middleton workshops but, rather, looked westwards, as the Leeds connection indicates.

The interlace of the narrow sides is competently handled and shows the prevailing Anglian tradition still without debasement.

The tenon joint, placed in the middle of the decorative schemes, must point to the shaft being a composite assembly of fitted blocks; this method was employed in the ninth-century sculpture of the North Riding north of Ripon, for example, on the Masham column, and on a small shaft at West Tanfield (Collingwood 1907, 360; idem 1911a, 300).

Late ninth to late tenth century
Collingwood 1911a, 271–3, figs. e–h on 272; Collingwood 1912a, 131; Lang 1976, 91, fig. 7c; McGuire and Clark 1987, 37, fig. 44; Lang 1989, 6
1. The following is a general reference to the Sherburn stones: Lang 1989, 5.

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