Volume VII: South West England

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Current Display: Amesbury 1, Wiltshire Forward button Back button

Overview
National Grid Reference of Place of Discovery
Present Location
Glass case in south-west aisle
Evidence for Discovery
Found in ?1907 under the chancel floor (see Dufty 1947, 158, and R.C.H.M.(E.) 1987, 11, 103). The Parish Guide dated May 1991 says, 'Discarded in the nineteenth century restoration it was rescued in 1907 from under the Chancel floor during further maintenance' (() 1991). But the date of Browne's account (1906) suggests that it was found somewhat earlier.
Church Dedication
St Mary and St Melor
Present Condition
Covered with mortar, two rings broken; worn ornament especially at edges
Description

About half of a fan-armed cross, type E9, with a slender type 1 ring. The decoration is the same on both broad faces.

A and C (broad): The head is edged with a broad cabled moulding, and each arm is outlined by a flat-band moulding with a curved tip. The ring is decorated with bold square pellets. The surviving arm is decorated with a triquetra knot formed from two median-incised strands, and these cross to pass around the centre, apparently to form one strand of a similar knot in the other arms.

E (top): The ornament on the top of the head is very worn on one side, but was decorated with figure-of-eight knots (half pattern F) with median-incised strands.

Discussion

Amesbury Abbey was a Benedictine house of nuns endowed in 979 by ælfthryth, mother of æthelred II. This was already an important estate centre since it is a place where the kings held their councils in 932 and 995 (Stenton 1971, 350, map; Yorke 1995, 218).

This shape of cross-head is characteristic of a group in Wessex and Mercia, for example Bath 4 (Ills. 1756), Bradford-on-Avon 2 (Ill. 400), Pagham 1 in Sussex (Tweddle et al. 1995, ills. 98100), Rolleston in Staffordshire (Auden 1908), Rowsley in Derbyshire (Routh 1937, pl. XVIII), and the Lechmere stone in Worcestershire (Kendrick 1938, pl. LXXXI). The shape may have been derived from a metalwork type; and here, in the most highly decorated of the surviving examples, the piercings and the pellets would increase the effect of richness (see introduction p. 36). The fine median-incised interlace and pattern F knots are also found at Ramsbury (Ill. 489), East Stour (Ill. 58) and Gillingham (Ill. 67), all of which are well-carved pieces. This then would have been part of an important monument, and could have been erected in the cemetery of the royal estate, thus preceding the foundation date of the female monastery.

Date
Ninth to tenth century
References
Browne 1906, 2545, pl. 9; Shore 1906, 43; Kendrick 1938, 187; Dufty 1947, 158, fig. 7; Stone 1955b, 38; Pevsner 1963, 15, 82; Pevsner and Cherry 1975, 17, 91; Ball 1979, 3241, fig. 1; Hinton 1979, 27; Plunkett 1984, I, 254, II, 289, 382, fig. 34 (e); R.C.H.M.(E.) 1987, 11, 12, 103, ill. 9; () 1991; Yorke 1995, 16, 26, 218
Endnotes
[1] All stone type identifications in the Wiltshire section of the catalogue are by B. C. Worssam.

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