Hornby village has three fragments of rare Anglo-Saxon stone crosses at St Margaret’s Church. These seem to be part of a collection centred around the Lune valley, perhaps connected to an Anglo-Saxon monastery based in Lancaster. Two of the pieces have inscriptions upon them, making them what is termed ‘literate’ and hence perhaps connected with educated monks. The Lune valley set of Anglo-Saxon monuments are both rare and early, from the late 700s-early 800s. This is much earlier than most sculptures of this period in Lancashire, which are mostly 900-1000s AD. Other similar pieces have been found at Heysham, Halton, Lancaster and Gressingham.
The two fragments with inscriptions are inside St Margaret’s Church (which is open every day). The third is the very large cross base in the churchyard. We’ll look at the ones inside the church first.
Loaves and Fishes Cross
This first sculpture has a clear depiction of the Loaves and Fishes biblical miracle, and five round loaves and two fish can clearly be seen. There is also the stem of a tree, possibly a vine, which symbolically is shaped as a cross. Two haloed figures stand on either side of it. On the other sides on view is decorative knot work. The side facing the wall (which cannot be seen) has a haloed half figure with wings holding a book. There is also a worn inscription on this unseen side. The sculpture was moved from Hornby Castle rockery in 1903 and placed in the church.
Zig Zag Cross
The zig zag cross fragment was found built into Hornby Priory Farm barn, and then brought into the church around the early 1900s. It bears the partial inscription of OED, but it is not clear what this means. Other sides feature a rosette fruit cluster and perhaps a halo, hair and forehead of a figure.
Pyramidal Cross Base
The pyramidal cross base is a large monument, 6 foot 2 inches tall (although the bottom foot is in the ground). It was first noted by the vicar of Whalley, local antiquarian Dr. Whitaker, in 1823. It has four sides, each decorated with a semi-circular arch supported by two narrow pillars. There were once figures on each side, but these are too faint to see now. They were thought to be the four evangelists or gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who are also depicted more clearly on the Anglo-Saxon part of the reassembled Sigurd Cross at nearby Halton (see here). On top of the monument is a socket hole where presumably a large shaft would have fitted, perhaps making the monument 12 feet high originally.
St Margaret’s church itself has a wealth of history and is worth visiting. It will be the subject of a future post on this site.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2019
St Margaret’s Church is open every day. For more details see here.
Nearby, just a short drive away
Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, Volume IX, Cheshire and Lancashire, Richard N. Bailey, (2010) British Academy, Oxford University Press
‘What mean these stones?’ Some aspects of Pre-Norman Sculpture in Cheshire and Lancashire, Richard N Bailey University of Newcastle Upon Tyne T. Northcote Toller Memorial Lecture, (1995) Centre for Anglo Saxon Studies Manchester University. Available online as a pdf document
Historic England website Pastscape.org Monument Number 42915
Historic England website Pastscape.org Monument Number 42909