Volume 8: Western Yorkshire

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Current Display: Aberford 1a - b, West Riding of Yorkshire Forward button Back button
National Grid Reference of Place of Discovery
Present Location
At the west end of the south aisle
Evidence for Discovery
All three fragments of pre-Conquest sculpture at this site were found when a smaller eleventh- to twelfth-century church, of which the tower and some fragments remain, was pulled down in 1860. The body of the church was rebuilt in 1861 (Ryder 1993, 135). The fragments were removed to the vicarage and were still in the garden there when seen by Collingwood (1915a, 131).
Church Dedication
St Ricarius
Present Condition
There is some damage around the break at the top. The shaft appears to have been broken in two horizontally, subsequent to the drawing in Collingwood 1915a, 130.

The tapering shaft is rectangular in section. A slight widening at the top represents the springing for the lower arm of the cross-head. All vertical edges are finished with a flat moulding. Where the background on face A is visible, it is cut back to a level surface. The bands of interlace and line ornament are also dressed to a flat surface, except on face B where the strands have a humped profile and the background has a less sharply defined surface but is also more open. The strands on all faces vary in width. The ornament appears to be continuous on each face, with no trace of panel dividers.

A (broad): On the left are three elements of a meander (T-pattern type 2), disposed vertically and filling about a third of the width of the shaft. The uppermost element is more angular than those below, to fit the widening for the springing of the cross-head. Its exiting strand extends across the top of the shaft, forming a framing upper border which seems to join with the right-hand vertical border. This terminates in a vestigial tri-lobed leaf-like form filling the top right corner. The remaining two thirds of the width of the decorated area are filled by a simple three-strand twist, of which two strands form a joined terminal at the top. Through this twist is threaded the third strand which seems to derive from the lowest element of the meander, and which terminates against the upper edge. The middle element of the meander also appears to feed into the twist, but this seems to be a mistake: it is certainly not as definite as in the drawing by Collingwood (1915a, 130, fig. h). The lower termination of the twist has not survived. There are slight traces of a stranded pattern in the lower arm of the cross-head.

B (narrow): A humped irregular pseudo-interlace with bifurcating strands and illogical crossings, in which two strands simply terminate in the upper corners, while one returns to feed back into the interlace: this incorporates a twist and possibly a loose ring. The panel is incomplete at the bottom.

C (broad): Filled by a six-stranded basket plait, of which two strands seem to terminate in the upper corners, while the joining of strands to feed back into the pattern seems more successfully accomplished at the bottom. The pattern however is stretched and 'pulled' to fit the expanded width at both top and bottom, and the crossing points vary from the norm at both ends. Loose pellets are incorporated into spaces between the strands at the bottom of the shaft. As on face A, there are traces of a pattern in the cross-head.

D (narrow): This seems to be based on a four-stranded plait, petering out at the top with irregular loops and loose frond-like terminals, while at the bottom the terminal (which is not quite as Collingwood drew it) looks like a clumsy Stafford Knot (simple pattern E), with two of the working strands of the plait terminating unattached against its upper edge.


Adjacent vertical runs of pattern are found in eastern Yorkshire on Lastingham 1B, and 2B and D, on even more rustic looking cross-shafts of the tenth century (Lang 1991, 167–8, ills. 575, 578, 580, 758). It is not common, however in that area. In the West Riding, there is an example in a much more modelled and fine-stranded pattern on the cross-base at Rastrick (Ill. 628) which could be earlier in date; and there is one on an unquestionably ninth-century cross-shaft at Thornhill, no. 6C (Ill. 749). Nearer in location and date is an example from Barwick in Elmet, no. 2C (Ill. 28). There is no surviving element which is not Anglian in origin, but the flat or flattish style, the large-scale versions of relatively simple pattern elements, the distortion and muddling of patterns to fit a space rather than the use of templates or a gridded layout, bifurcating strands, pellet space-fillers, loose rings, and strands terminating without joining, are all typical of late work with influence from Anglo-Scandinavian period taste.

Tenth century
Collingwood 1912, 128; Collingwood 1915a, 131, 264, 271, 274, 281, figs. g–j on 130; Collingwood 1915b, 333, pl. on 330; Collingwood 1927, 97, fig. 121g–j; Firby and Lang 1981, 20; Lang 1991, 90, 167, 218
[1] The following are general references to the Aberford stones: Morris 1923, 549; Mee 1941, 17; Pevsner 1959, 69; Ryder 1993, 135.

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