Volume III: York and East Yorkshire

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Current Display: Sherburn 03, Eastern Yorkshire Forward button Back button

National Grid Reference of Place of Discovery
Present Location
Church tower, inside
Evidence for Discovery
See no. 2.
Church Dedication
St Hilda
Present Condition
Broken top and bottom; damaged and worn, especially on faces B and C; carving on face A crisp

The piece is a section from the middle of a shaft. It has a very damaged roll moulding surviving on one edge.

A (broad): At the base of the fragment is the upper half of a human face; it is oval with incised eyes and nose in one continuous line. It is set within an arch which has a median incision and, at each side of the head and at its crest, a short transverse bar, similarly incised. Above the crest is a bird's head pointing upwards, with lentoid, incised eye and gripping in its beak a horizontal woman by her waist. The trailing train of her robe and her pigtail are gripped by the extended arm of the man below, and loop round his wrists. Her skirt has ribbed folds and her pigtail is median-incised. Her nose is sharp and she has a large eye.

B (narrow): Hacked away.

C (broad): The face is very worn. At its base are two broad adjacent strands which bend. Faint traces of a horizontal curving band appear above.

D (narrow): This face has a double edge moulding, the inner one distinctly a roll. There are remains of what may have been an interlace pattern, now indecipherable. On the other hand, there are two thicknesses of strand, and at one point it resembles a contoured profile beast enlaced in its extensions.


If side D is in fact a fettered profile beast, then it is connected with the York animal ornament which shares its closely packed organization and S-formation.

The iconography of the best preserved face, A, has been shown to represent Weland (Old Norse Volundr), the flying smith of Germanic folk-lore. The smith is locked into his 'flying machine' which has a bird-head. The literary sources throw no light on the identity of the seized woman, unless this tenth-century version refers to Weland abducting Beaduhild. The legend is illustrated on the Franks Casket and must have remained current in the Anglo-Scandinavian period, or have been reintroduced by Scandinavian settlers, since very similar motifs, showing Weland, the flying device and the woman, occur twice at Leeds, West Riding (Ill. 920), and once on a hogback at Bedale in the North Riding (Lang 1976, 90–3). It also appears on a Gotland picture stone, Larbro St Hammars III (Lindqvist 1941–2, pl. 30, fig. 85; 86–7) as well as being related to numerous carvings of the Sigurð cycle. The heroic iconography and the possible animal ornament suggest links with Yorkshire sites to the west, rather than with Ryedale (see Chap. 9).

Late ninth to late tenth century
Collingwood 1911a, 271–3, figs. i–l on 272; Collingwood 1912a, 131; Lang 1974, 17–21, fig. 7; Lang 1976, 90–2, fig. 7; Bailey 1980, 104–5, fig. 16; McGuire and Clark 1987, 36–7, fig. 43; Lang 1989, 6, pl. IIg
1. The following is a general reference to the Sherburn stones: Lang 1989, 5.

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