Volume 12: Nottinghamshire

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Current Display: South Leverton 2, Nottinghamshire Forward button Back button
Present Location
Built into the north wall of the tower, north face. This is within the church, since the medieval north aisle of about 1340 overlaps the tower, which itself dates from the end of the twelfth century. The stone forms the lintel of an aumbry, with rebating for a door (Ill. 108). This feature has no intrinsically dateable characteristics, but it is clearly inserted into the tower's twelfth-century fabric, and equally clearly pre-dates a nineteenth-century re-casting of this space, because of its awkward relationship to the raised floor put in then. The aumbry probably therefore dates to the mid fourteenth century, when the space had a separate entrance from the west and was lit by a fine west window of that date, and was probably a self-contained chapel. Now it serves as the church's vestry.
Evidence for Discovery
No direct evidence found. The preceding argument suggests that it was reused (possibly not for the first time) in its modern location during the fourteenth century. The stone was described in its present location in 1909, when the church featured in the Thoroton Society's summer excursion (Clarke 1909).
Church Dedication
All Saints
Present Condition
Good; without any obvious damage or desecration. It seems worn rather smooth locally on the broad band above the depicted feet.

What survives is clearly only a part of a much larger monument. If it is part of a major Crucifixion or Ascension scene, as argued below, this stone might be most of one element from an original sculpture that was made up of several substantial stone blocks, as is commonly the case with the largest of pre-Norman roods (Taylor and Taylor 1966, 4–12; Coatsworth 1988). The description below treats the stone as a horizontal grave-cover — as it has previously been thought to be — while signaling that it ought rather to be visualized set vertically as part of a monumental sculpture.

A (top/front): The top, recte front, is simply and rather crudely decorated. At the surviving complete end, a pair of naked feet, with toes clearly differentiated and stretched downwards, protrudes from a broad horizontal band evidently representing the hem of a garment, robe or shroud above. There are deep nicks in either end of this otherwise blank band: three in one end, one in the other, on the arris. They look purposeful and perhaps part of the intended depiction; but the imbalance of their occurrence may indicate that they are secondary, though not necessarily casual damage. The clothing, robe or shroud above the hem is indicated by a pattern of deeply gouged furrows running out to the edge of the decorated surface and top of the long sides. Immediately above the hem they form a sort of herringbone effect of broad bands, opening downwards. There is then an arrangement akin to a bow, whose effect is to change the direction of the pattern, which becomes much broader, flatter and more regular V-folds. Above this, just where the stone is broken, the pattern seems to be breaking down, as if at the waist of the figure, where the garment might be held or constrained by a girdle.

B and D (long): The right-hand long side (lower as currently mounted) is slightly chamfered before dropping vertically. This is probably a secondary effect, but does not impinge sufficiently on the top/front surface to make that certain and is not so well-formed as to identify a specific secondary use. It may even indicate where another block in the original scene abutted. The left-hand long side (upper as currently mounted) curves gently to the vertical from the top/front surface in what looks like the original form of the monument.

C (end/bottom): Undecorated, dressed original surface

E (end/top): Broken

F (bottom/back): Built in


This stone has not formed the subject of any form of academic assessment previously. On the rare occasions it has attracted remark it seems to have been considered to be some type of very crude stone effigy or burial monument, with the implication that the decoration depicts a shrouded figure (Clarke 1909 called it 'the lower part of a monumental slab, shewing feet and shroud rudely carved'; Mee 1938, 262, 'a fragment of another ancient stone [not the alleged Roman coffin just mentioned] with crude carving of feet and a shroud'). In practice, it looks like no medieval or post-medieval effigial monument that we have encountered; and no pre-Conquest funerary monument either. And when they do occur — in stone or brass — shrouded figures are not depicted with their feet protruding from the shroud.

Viewed in the vertical plane, however, rather than the horizontal, this stone assumes an excitingly recognizable, if rather rare, aspect. It is part of a major pre-Conquest figure sculpture. Furthermore, its rigidly front-facing stance argues that it is the sole or central focus of the composition rather than a supporter, who would be turned to attend on a main, central event.

When we published an earlier exploration of the context of South Leverton 1, the pre-Viking shaft, we made no reference to this second monument, thinking — but prior to researching and writing it up for this volume — that this figure might be part of an Ascension and of later pre-Conquest date, and therefore irrelevant to that discussion (Everson and Stocker 2007). That might indeed be a possibility. As comparison one might cite the small doll-like swaddled figure in a mandorla on the back of the Harmston cross in Lincolnshire, though there we favoured a Christ in Judgment among several plausible interpretations, between which the sculpture itself afforded no means of deciding (Everson and Stocker 1999, 176–7, ill. 200). An Ascension scene is clearly part of the repertoire of pre-Viking sculpture, since it occurs on the very stylish monuments at Reculver (Kent) and at Rothbury (Northumberland). But in both of those cases the depiction is complex, animated and naturalistic; and in both cases the scene is part of an extensive iconographic programme drawing on the New Testament narrative (Cramp 1984, 20–1, 28, 219–21; Tweddle et al. 1995, 157, 161). The same lively Ascension iconography occurs on the sarcophagus cover at Wirksworth (Derbyshire), again within a very rich array of New Testament and theological scenes but with teeming figures of a primitive style and stylized draperies. Though its date is much debated, Cramp, Hawkes and Wilson among modern scholars have placed it increasingly clearly in a pre-Viking and probably late eighth-century context (Cramp 1977, esp. 218, 224; Wilson 1984, 84–5; Hawkes 1995).

Tweddle very usefully distinguishes two main iconographic variants on the Ascension as found in early medieval art (Tweddle et al. 1995, 157); and it is clear that South Leverton does not correspond with the first, which characteristically sees Christ striding up a low hill and grasping the outstretched Hand of God, nor to a related, late, sub-type where only the lower half of Christ, cut off at the waist, is seen disappearing into a cloud (Schapiro 1943). It would have to be the second, which can feature a passive standing Christ, who is conveyed upwards in a mandorla by supporting angels. This is the variant that appears in panels on those Irish high crosses that feature elaborate scriptural scenes, as at Castledermot south cross, Co. Kildare, or on the capstone of Muiredach's cross at Monasterboice, Co. Louth (Harbison 1992, 40, 145, figs. 110, 481; Stalley 1996, pl. 11). This variant demands considerable peripheral elaboration in support of the primary figure, which, at the scale of our South Leverton figure, seems unlikely. In fact, despite Peter Clemoes' argument that, from a literary perspective, the majestic pomp of the Ascension correlated closely with the emotional piety of the age of Cynewulf (Clemoes 1971, 296), the key argument against this interpretation of the iconography of South Leverton 2 is perhaps that no other large-scale pre-Conquest sculptural examples of this subject are known.

An alternative, and even rarer, interpretation suggested by a reading of the garments as grave clothes is that the figure is Lazarus, bundled up in burial vestments and perhaps part of a scene of Christ raising his friend from his tomb (John 11.1–44). What has traditionally been interpreted as a depiction of Lazarus occurs on a late eighth-or ninth-century shaft from Heysham (Lancashire) where a figure is distinguished by clothing depicted in a very schematic, wave-like pattern over the lower body, that changes to a crossing arrangement above the waist as the garment is carried, hood-wise, over the head. Cramp's re-assessment of 1994 questioned the figure's identification with Lazarus, however, principally on the grounds that the scene envisaged, though not uncommon in early Christian art, always includes a figure of Christ and sometimes others such as Mary and Martha (Cramp 1994, 111, 114, fig. 45). Accepting this argument and taking it further, Bailey convincingly identifies the Heysham scene more thematically as the Resurrection of the Dead (Bailey 2010, 196–9, ill. 508). Though its strongly stylized draperies may therefore offer a point of stylistic and chronological comparison for South Leverton 2, Heysham does not offer a ready or plausible iconographic parallel. As in the case of an Ascension image, it seems unlikely that either a Christ and Lazarus scene — in itself a rarity in Insular sculpture, as Bailey stresses — or a Resurrection of the Dead would be produced on the monumental life-size scale implied by the South Leverton stone.

That objection does not hold, of course, for the Crucifixion, whose occurrence and role as architectural sculpture was reviewed by Harold Taylor (Taylor and Taylor 1966; and see Coatsworth 1979). Monumental survivals such as the feet from a Crucifixion, still in situ above the chancel arch at Bitton, Gloucestershire, afford a direct parallel to South Leverton 2 (Taylor and Taylor 1966, 6–8, fig. 2; Bryant with Hare 2012, 147–50, ill. 67). The naked feet and carefully depicted toes hanging or pointing downwards are very similarly portrayed, though actually they may be supported on a suppedaneum, as is clear on the similarly monumental but better preserved Romsey 1 (Tweddle et al. 1995, ill. 452). Taking Langford 2 as his model, Taylor supplied Christ in his reconstruction of the Bitton rood with a full-length robe, from which the feet protrude in much the same way as they do at South Leverton, but Bryant now argues that Christ at Bitton was naked except for a loincloth, like Romsey 1. This colobium, or full-length tabard, is the sculptor's choice at Langford 2, Oxfordshire, and Walkern, Hertfordshire, in late pre-Conquest England (Tweddle et al. 1995, ills. 294– 5, 397) and at Moone, Co. Kildare, for example, in Ireland (Harbison 1992, ill. 511; Stalley 1996, pl. 12), where a metalwork model is thought to influence the simple geometric forms. At Moone the protruding feet are simply depicted and turned out, but early Irish metalwork examples of crucifixions such as the eighth-century copper-alloy plaque from St John's, Rinnagan, Co. Westmeath, have feet together and pointed down or 'dangling'; Christ's long-sleeved tunic on this plaque has a broad decorated hem to the skirt (Youngs 1989, 140–1, cat. 133). This may be the significance of the broad horizontal band from which the feet protrude at South Leverton; rather than a hem, however, it may alternatively indicate a second, under-layer of clothing, as in the Homo image of the four-symbols page of the Trier Gospels (Alexander 1978, cat. 26, ill. 114). The Leverton figure is clearly ram-rod upright, like the figures in these other early roods, and rigidly front-facing.

In addition to the sculptural example of strongly stylized drapery on the pre-Viking Heysham shaft mentioned above, an excellent parallel for the patterning effect of the Leverton robe is the crucified figure on the Auckland St Andrew cross, co. Durham (Cramp 1984, 37–40, pl. 3.6). Thought there to be a crucifixion of St Andrew, bound to the cross, rather than Christ, the finely detailed drapery exhibits a knotted, bow-like arrangement at or just below the waist, which creates a change of orientation of the flat V-folds in very much the same manner as at Leverton (Ill. 191). St Andrew Auckland 1 is dated on style-critical grounds to the last quarter of the eighth or first quarter of the ninth century. The insistent patterning effect of the broad flat bands of the robe at South Leverton is found at a similar pre-Viking date in the manuscript depiction of Christ on the Cross in Würzburg, Universitätsbibl., Cod. M. p. th. (Alexander 1978, cat. 55, ill. 265). In this late eighth-century painting, Christ appears in a long patterned robe, with feet poking out below (Ill. 192). The folds of the garment take the form of two lines of swags, forming a sort of curvilinear herringbone. Their direction changes at the waist, where there is a narrow belt. The extreme stylization and colouring that emphasizes the patterned effect links with manuscript illumination in the Irish tradition.

It is in the pre-Viking era, too, that we have evidence of a Christian institution at South Leverton of a sort that might have commissioned a monumental Crucifixion as part of its decoration and ritual. As the entry for South Leverton 1 above records (pp. 74 and 174), we have explored the historical and topographical context for the major cross represented by the two fragments 1a and 1b recycled into the medieval arcade. In an earlier, separate publication, we have identified in the settlement morphology a large, putatively early enclosure (Everson and Stocker 2007, 41–8). It was characterized by multiple ritual foci, including the early cross, All Saints church or its predecessor, and a well. It may have been a monastery. This second monument, then, both complements and considerably augments the evidence which the grand cross, South Leverton 1, provides for a more-than-routine ecclesiastical presence in this location in the pre-Viking period.

If South Leverton 2 is indeed a Crucifixion figure of the type suggested, it will have been something like 1.7 m (5 ft) tall when complete: approximately life-sized. It would be an early example of a Triumphkreuz, whose characteristics and well-established tradition Richard Marks has recently helpfully discussed (Marks 2012). Located in the obvious position high over a chancel arch, like Bitton, the comparative crudeness of execution of its draperies will not have mattered. An alternative location might be over a west door, like the in situ rood at Headbourne Worthy, Hampshire (Tweddle et al. 1995, ill. 448). The broad banded fields were eminently suitable for bold, variegated coloration to emphasize the patterning and to produce an impressively dazzling visual impact when viewed from a distance.

Understood as the residue of a monumental Crucifixion, South Leverton 2 stands apart geographically, stylistically and chronologically from the group of late Saxon monumental roods in southern England that are normally discussed together (Coatsworth 1988; Tweddle et al. 1995, 73–6). Its long-robed Christ has nothing in common with the revived fashion for long robes exhibited at Langford 2 and Walkern, and their simple, naturalistic depiction. It belongs, rather, with the earlier era of the sixth to ninth century, when, as Coatsworth has defined, the robed Crucifixion predominated (1979, i, 108; 2000), and its depiction tended to be complex and strongly patterned. In Anglo-Saxon manuscripts this era is represented by Durham Cathedral Library MS A. II. 17, dated to the late seventh or early eighth century (Alexander 1978, cat. 10, ill. 202), and in ivory by the very worn eighth-century diptych now in the Musée Cluny (Beckwith 1972, cat. 6, ill. 19); but South Leverton 2 is the first example in the medium of monumental stone sculpture.

While the sort of pre-Viking institution envisaged at South Leverton may have had several discrete church structures within its ambit, it might be reasonable to presume (with suitable caveats) that the Crucifixion represented by South Leverton 2 may have ornamented an earlier phase of the present church of All Saints. There was certainly a pre-Conquest church of that dedication here. William Rufus gave the church of All Hallows at South Leverton to the cathedral church of St Mary at Lincoln and its bishop, Robert Bloet, together with all things that belonged to that church in the time of Edward the Confessor (Foster 1931, 199, no. 252). Though no church or priest is recorded in Domesday Book, this indicates that at minimum there was a late pre-Conquest church here. With its developed twelfth-century footprint abutting the western boundary of the large enclosure in a way that seems unnecessary unless it is a relic of a complex early arrangement that has otherwise disappeared, its awkward location suggests All Saints may be the direct successor of an early church and therefore a plausible candidate for ornamentation with the early rood. Located over the chancel arch, it may have been dislodged and dismembered as a result of the stylish redevelopment of the chancel and the nave arcades in the early thirteenth century, one effect of which was to remove any form of chancel arch and screen wall above. Alternatively, if located over an early west door, it would have been dislodged by the construction of South Leverton's notable twelfth-century tower. Both these post-Conquest architectural developments are unusual for the area. Together with the quality of its north and south arcades (which are related architecturally to work at Lincoln Cathedral) and its south doorway (related in its architectural details to the twelfth-century work at York Minster), they are indicators of the established importance of the church and site.

Perhaps the main surprise about this monument, and a cause for pause about its probable date, is that it is worked from the Dolomitic limestone of the local Cadeby formation (Chapter II, p. 14). This might, on the one hand, be seen as standing four-square with the use of another Nottinghamshire stone-type, Skerry, for the cross, South Leverton 1. However, Dolomitic limestones of the Cadeby and related formations were also commonly used for pre-Conquest sculpture along the outcrop northwards from here in western Yorkshire and in the York area, while the use of this stone type for major Roman ashlar-work in York itself raises the further possibility of its re-cycling and re-distribution for early sculpture (Senior 1991; Lott 2008). In either case, this artifact indicates that the masons who were exploiting, or re-cycling, Permian limestone in the pre-Viking era were adept at producing major figure sculpture, even if it was largely as a vehicle for painted display. The main comparandum we have amongst the Lincolnshire material is the Virgin figure from Great Hale, in Lincolnshire Limestone, which we have suggested was also part of a large-scale and complex rood. In that case, with a very worn and recycled item making a fine assessment difficult, we judged a late pre-Conquest, eleventh-century date appropriate by comparison with the much-studied group of southern English monumental roods (Everson and Stocker 1999, 170–2, ill. 186; Everson and Stocker 2000). The indication from South Leverton that there may have been much earlier versions of the scene within the region is a significant revelation, which might modify that assessment.

Late eighth or ninth century
Clarke 1909; Mee 1938, 262

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