Wednesday, 25 February 2015

British treasures No 4

Eyam is located in the Derbyshire High Peaks 800 feet above sea level, and is known as the Plague village. Here stands an ancient cross, considered to be one of the finest in the country, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Grade 1 listed - a British treasure. I wonder how many people have passed this Saxon cross in St. Lawrence's churchyard without realising it's status. There is a small notice board stating that the cross is 8th century Celtic; it is carved with both Pagan and Christian imagery. The cross dates from the period in British history when Pagan beliefs still abounded and Christianity was a minority faith. This cross pre-dates the 13th century church in Eyam by 500 hundred years. There are several other Saxon crosses in Derbyshire but the one in Eyam churchyard is the most outstanding being almost intact. It is notable for the survival of the head, but sadly the top two feet of the shaft are missing. It was placed in the churchyard many years ago after it was removed from a nearby cart track. At one time it is thought to have been used as a wayside preaching cross years before the establishment of the church in Eyam. It has also been suggested that this cross may originally have lain on a piece of remote moorland just outside Eyam village, where there are several Neolithic remains including a Stone Circle, and a Long Barrow to be found. 
British Treasure No. 3 

54 comments:

  1. These crosses are real treasures indeed. In Ireland we saw also some beautiful ones last summer.

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    1. Yes, you are right, there are some beautiful Celtic crosses in Ireland.

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  2. I shall make a note of looking at this cross when we visit Eyam as I want to go on the history trail around the village this year. Thank you for the information, Rosemary.

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    1. Pick a good day Linda - it is fun trying to find the boundary stone with the holes in it.

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  3. Hello Rosemary,

    Derbyshire is a county about which, we must confess, we know relatively little. Rather like Belgium, when travelling abroad, we have tended to pass through rather than tarry and seek out its treasures. We have definitely lost out and must rectify this one day.

    The Eyam cross looks to be a very fine example. Incredible that so much detail remains after so many centuries. An intriguing mix of motifs, reflecting the melting pot of beliefs at the time. A National Treasure indeed.

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    1. Hello Jane and Lance - These ancient celtic motifs and symbols continue to appeal to us today has they have done down the centuries.
      You must visit Derbyshire, it is full of historical interest and has a beautiful landscape too.

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  4. The cross has stood the test of time and has much to tell Rosemary. It looks to be in excellent condition.
    Regards,
    Margaret..

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    1. It really is in remarkable condition Margaret considering that it has weathered so many centuries outside.

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  5. Hello Rosemary, I would love to visit some Saxon-era relics, like this especially fine one. When I first read your account, I was hoping that the missing piece might reappear, but reading about Eyam in Wikipedia, found that the missing piece had been "broken up for household use." However, since I have no idea why or how one would break up stone shafts for domestic use, here's hoping that some fragments might still turn up.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - it was very common hundreds of years ago for local people to pilfer bits of stone to build their walls and houses. It is most likely residing in the wall of a house, but quite possibly inside because of the interesting carving.

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  6. I first went to Eyam when I was in college and was captivated. I actually have a postcard of this cross in my draw. So thanks for this post.

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    1. I am pleased that it reminded you of your trip there Jenny

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  7. Fascinating, Rosemary. Love these kind of things. I am due to do a post sometime about Eyam from a wider angle, but will hold off if you're about to cover it. Let me know.

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    1. Have done two other posts Mike - one on Eyam and the other on the plague. I would not wish you to hold off from writing your post, please go ahead. If you want to see mine you can get into them from the yellow links shown in the first sentence of this post.

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  8. It's amazing that so much of it has survived even this long. I'm surprised it's not in a museum to protect it from outdoor weather and vandals, quite frankly. [Also FYI, I addressed your "Ask Me Anything" question over at my blog today.]

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    1. Thanks Debra - I will take a peek.
      There is just so much stuff over here that it would be impossible to put everything in a museum. As you can see it is in good condition considering that it is over 1200 years old and the carving is remarkably crisp.

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  9. Quite spectacular, you always find the most interesting places and things.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment, and I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing it.
      In this series I am not showing the things that everyone knows about but endeavouring to show some of the lesser unknown little treasures.

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  10. How interesting, and amazing how it has stood the test of time. I also like the little fence around it.

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    1. Thank you Janey - I think that perhaps the little fence is most likely a Victorian bit of metal work.

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  11. How beautiful it is. There are many Celtic crosses on Cape Breton, where I come from, but none more than about 250 years old. I haven't been able to sit for long enough to think about my walking - thank you for your offer of advice, and when I get myself together I will be in touch.

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    1. This Saxon cross is in wonderful condition considering its age and the fact that it has been exposed to the elements over 1200 years.
      Anytime that you are ready - I know you currently have quite enough to deal with.

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  12. So many centuries behind it, and it is still great. Says a lot about the history. Regards.

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    1. Thank you Giga - I love the celtic motifs on it.

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  13. When you look at the cross I find it difficult to realise that it is that old. It still looks in really good condition. Very impressive!

    Enjoy the rest of the week!

    Madelief x

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    1. It is interesting the way these Celtic motifs still resonate with us today, they have a timeless quality about them.

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  14. I think this is so beautiful, the celtic crosses are very interesting...a lovely post again Rosemary!
    Warm hug,
    Titti

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    1. Thank you dear Titti - the celtic motifs on the cross are really lovely - do you think that they have a bit of a Scandinavian feel to them?

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  15. That's what's so wonderful about our countryside - I've walked around that churchyard several times and, though I recall the cricketer Harry Bagshaw's grave, the sundial and a rather fine tomb adorned with skulls and crossbones, I somehow didn't notice, or didn't realise the significance of, the cross. So there'll be something new to look out for next time.

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    1. There are some fine things in and around this churchyard. I wrote a post about both John Whitehurst and the sundial which he designed and made. He was a clockmaker and distinguished and influential member of the Lunar Society.

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  16. The Celtic cross is so special, and beautifully preserved Rosemary. I too find it astonishing that such a treasure is displayed outdoors with no protection from the weather. It does, of course, look so much better in the churchyard than it would in a museum space, so long may it survive. The detail of the carvings is incredible.

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    1. It never even crossed my mind Patricia that it should be in a museum until Debra mentioned it. I suppose it is the fact that we are surrounded by 'old stuff' here or should I say ancient artefacts. Every little town and village has an its old church, old houses, medieval remains etc. I don't think that it would be feasible, and the cross does look pretty good for its age.

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  17. A very differently coloured stone from the warm sandy gold we usually see on your blog! I love the eternal history and geology of regional stone carvings and buildings.

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    1. Yes you are right - although this is also limestone stone it is carboniferous and has a much harder composition than our Cotswolds oolithic limestone. Being so hard is no doubt what has kept it in such good order.

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  18. Hello Rosemary,

    The Celtic Cross is wonderful and amazing that it is so old and has weathered all those years.
    Thanks for sharing and I always enjoy seeing old treasures.
    Hope you are having a lovely week
    hugs
    Carolyn

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    1. I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing this old Saxon cross with its lovely Celtic motifs Carolyn.

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  19. There is so much mystery surrounding old objects. Questions that can never really be answered. I went to Eyam years ago and was so impressed withthe plague story. I was only talking about it last night, when my 11yr old asked if there could ever be another plague. Then we talked about Ebola.

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    1. Hello Katharine - I wonder if you read my post on the plague at Eyam? You can link into it from the first sentence on this post.
      The HIV virus has also been found to share similar mutations to both the Bubonic plague and Smallpox, and although the plague was bacterial and the HIV a virus, descendants living in Eyam today, whose ancestors survived the so called 'black death,' appear to be immune from the HIV virus. Apparently the pox can be either virus or bacterial.

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  20. It is a beautiful thing and a great treasure indeed. Definitely a Great British Treasure! To answer your question to me, no we didn't see the Alfred Jewel, because we didn't look for it as I believe that it is currently on display in Somerset. I would love to see it someday though! xx

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    1. Thanks Amy - I seem to remember reading that it was returning to Somerset for a few weeks.

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  21. Dear Rosemary the Saxon crosses are so beautiful with the Celtic motifs on them!
    Thank you for sharing those British treasures!
    Dimi...

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    1. Pleased that you enjoyed seeing this beautiful Saxon cross Dimi.

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  22. A real gem, and in such great condition considering the years !!

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    1. It is hard to believe that it is so old Jane.

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  23. Dear Rosemary,

    like Debra, I'm surprised that this treasure is not in a museum, and though I take your point about it not being possible to put every olde English thing in a museum, I would think a Saxon Museum or Anglo-Saxon Museum would be quite appropriate. I'm really enjoying your series on English treasures, by the way!

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    1. Dear Mark - Because the Saxon cross is a Grade 1 listed monument I imagine that a very close eye is kept on it, and if there were signs of it deteriorating it would most likely be removed indoors. There is a small museum in Eyam where it could be taken if necessary, or else inside the church.
      I am glad that you are enjoying this series, I am endeavouring to show things that are British treasurers but that are perhaps not widely known about.

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  24. I once read a novel about Eyam and the plague which was fascinating. I love these old symbols that have lasted since time immemorial - I am sure they are surrounded by magic and mystery - love the little fence that surrounds it too - very fancy.

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    1. You are so right about these Celtic symbols and motifs Elaine, they have timelessness to them. I think that the little fence was probably made by a local Victorian or Edwardian blacksmith.

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  25. What an extraordinarily well-preserved cross, Rosemary. I've heard of Eyam of course, not least because you've blogged about it, but hadn't heard of the cross. There are several ancient crosses in churches and churchyards in our Welsh diocese and the sense of history wehn one looks at them is palpable.

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    1. I think that we are so fortunate in our country to be surrounded by so much history and especially so for those of us that love antiquities.

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  26. You have a lot of history. These are wonderful images and thanks for the information, I didn't know this.
    Have a happy weekend.

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    1. Thank you Orvokki - glad you enjoyed seeing the images.

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  27. Eyam cross looks standing proudly. I like the mossy stone color and I’m interested in its unique cross form; to me, it looks embracing the world with arms, or it looks holding a bird on the stone pillar. I wonder what pagan message is contained in the symbols. Among the British treasures you have introduced, Rosemary, this is my favorite. Thanks for sharing.

    Yoko

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    1. Hello Yoko - the symbols on the first side of the cross shown may be what is called the Round Knot - a complex maze which symbolises the path of eternal life. I cannot be 100% sure but think that the interlaced design on the second side is linked to lineage and fertility.
      I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing the cross.

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