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Posts Tagged ‘crosses’

Dumb Proctor Lochwinnoch
Renfrewshire-based bookseller and publisher Chris Morrison recently sent me these two Victorian sketches of the Dumb Proctor, an early medieval monument now used as a grave-marker in the public cemetery at Lochwinnoch. The images come from Volume 2 of Archaeological and Historical Collections of the County of Renfrew, published in 1890.

In a blogpost last year I mentioned that the Dumb Proctor was originally a free-standing cross carved in the last phase of the Govan sculptural style. I also showed my own attempt at a reconstruction of how it might look today if the cross-head hadn’t been cut off. The 1890 book was referred to in passing but I didn’t cite it in the bibliography at the end of the post.

I am grateful to Chris for providing the sketches, which I’ve added to my file of notes on this enigmatic monument. The Dumb Proctor is one of a number of Govan-style stones for which I’m hoping to compile detailed ‘biographies’ relating to history, art, preservation, re-use and conservation.

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Links

Blogpost (2013): The Dumb Proctor of Lochwinnoch

The Grian Press (Scottish local history)
Grian Books (rare & out-of-print items)

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Just a quick note to say I’ve uploaded a new post about the sculptured crosses of the Govan School at my Strathclyde blog. It’s basically a whistle-stop tour of this type of monument, with most of the surviving examples listed. Click the link below to take a look.

Strathclyde & the Anglo-Saxons in the Viking Age: Strathclyde crosses

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Netherton Cross
A detailed blogpost on the Netherton Cross is in the pipeline but, for the moment, here are three photographs to introduce the cross to those of you who haven’t seen it before.

Briefly, this free-standing sandstone cross is a product of the ‘Govan School’ – the stonecarving style of the Strathclyde Britons – in an outlying district 12 miles from the main sculptural centre at Govan. The low-quality carving and lack of intricacy suggest that it belongs to the later phase of the style, when the standard of craftsmanship was waning. A date of c.1050, around the time when the Strathclyde Britons lost their independence, would probably not be wide of the mark.

Netherton Cross
The cross formerly stood beside the River Clyde but is now in the grounds of the new parish church at Hamilton. Devotees of ‘Dark Age’ Celtic sculpture could quite easily walk past this enigmatic monument without being aware of what it is. On one side it has a central boss, flanked by two triangular shapes, above an interlace pattern; the other side shows a crudely carved human figure above a central boss which has two pairs of snakes uncoiling from it. Other patterns are difficult to make out but were identified in Victorian times and noted in antiquarian literature. I’ll describe all the carvings more fully at some point.

Although rather simple and unsophisticated, the Netherton Cross is one of my favourite examples of Strathclyde sculpture. It’s a hefty piece, with a weight and bulk that give it an impressive aura. This and the older example from Barochan are the only two free-standing crosses of the Govan School that still remain intact.

Netherton Cross

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The three photographs are copyright © B Keeling. Two of them appear in my book The Men of the North: the Britons of Southern Scotland.

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Arthurlie Cross

Copyright © Chris Morrison


Chris Morrison, proprietor of the Grian Press, recently sent me some photos of the Arthurlie Cross, an early medieval monument situated in a residential area of Barrhead in East Renfrewshire. Although only the broken shaft of the cross survives, the clarity of the interlace patterns makes this one of the finest examples of sculptural art from the old kingdom of Strathclyde. The carvings are in the distinctive style of the ‘Govan School’ and enable the monument to be dated to the 9th-11th centuries AD.
Arthurlie Cross

Copyright © Chris Morrison


I visited the Arthurlie Cross in 2010 and included three images of it in my book The Men of the North: the Britons of Southern Scotland, published in the same year. Readers of the book will recognize the illustration shown below, an excellent drawing of the cross by John Romilly Allen (1847-1907).

Arthurlie Cross
For the past couple of years I’ve been working sporadically on a ‘biography’ of the Arthurlie Cross, tracing its thousand-year history as a public monument and exploring the folklore that grew around it. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was used in a more practical way, first as a footbridge over a stream and, later, as a gatepost. The damage it suffered is visible today, most notably on one side where the carvings have been worn almost smooth by the passage of countless feet. In the 21st century we might feel tempted to roll our eyes at such heedless disregard of an ancient monument, until we remind ourselves that it is an integral part of the story. If the cross had played no useful role in the daily life of the local community, it might have been broken up as masonry for buildings.
Arthurlie Cross

Copyright © Chris Morrison


Arthurlie Cross

Copyright © Chris Morrison


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The Arthurlie Cross is located at the junction of Springhill Road and Carnock Crescent in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire.

I am grateful to Chris Morrison for the photographs. Take a look at the Grian Press website to see a good selection of books on Scottish local history, including reprints of older works. Chris also posts interesting historical info at the Hidden Renfrewshire Facebook page.

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Strathclyde sculpture: the Dumb Proctor
The main cemetery for the community of Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire sits high on a hillside on the edge of the village, above the west bank of the River Calder. Among the numerous memorials and tombstones is a strange-looking object known as the ‘Dumb Proctor’ which stands like a sentinel among the graves of the Ewing family. The old Scots word ‘proctor’, a shortened form of ‘procurator’, refers (in most instances) to a religious official. This one is ‘dumb’ because it’s made of sandstone. It does indeed resemble a stooping, hooded figure. To local historian Derek Parker, who described the stone some years ago, it seemed like “a brooding monk silently summoning sinners to repentance”.

Strathclyde sculpture: the Dumb Proctor

‘a brooding monk’


The front of the stone is dominated by a large boss in the upper section, below which is a serpent. Beneath the serpent is a horseman, now much weathered, above a square panel containing five horizontal bars. A report from 1890 described a border of Celtic interlace but no trace of any such pattern is visible today. On the reverse is the lower part of a large human figure wearing a long tunic or robe.
Strathclyde sculpture: the Dumb Proctor
Although the Dumb Proctor was once regarded as mysterious, we now know that it is a Christian monument of the early medieval period. The serpent is the last survivor of a quartet which once formed a cross around the central boss. These creatures symbolize redemption and rebirth, the analogy being the periodic shedding of their old skin. Arranged in a cross-shape they display the Christianity of the wealthy patrons who commissioned the stone. Likewise, the large figure carved on the back may represent the Crucified Christ, by analogy with examples from elsewhere.
Lochwinnoch Dumb Proctor
The horseman, although now indistinct, conforms to a type seen on stones of the ‘Govan School’ of sculpture. Govan appears to have been the premier stonecarving centre in the kingdom of Strathclyde during the 9th-11th centuries. Artistic styles developed at Govan were disseminated throughout the kingdom, appearing on monuments in frontier regions such as Ayrshire and the shores of Loch Lomond. The area around Lochwinnoch must at one time have lain within the kingdom’s southwestern border, probably close to an interface between the Strathclyde Britons and the Gaelic-speaking Gall Gaidhil who had been colonising Ayrshire since the 9th century. Lochwinnoch lay on an important route connecting the core of Strathclyde to the Irish Sea coastlands. It is possible that the Dumb Proctor was originally placed as a wayside cross along this route, perhaps to mark a boundary. The horseman – a mounted warrior – indicates that this was a secular monument rather than an ecclesiastical one.

Lochwinnoch
The Dumb Proctor owes its current shape to alterations made since its discovery in the early 19th century. It was unearthed in a field on the old farm of the Ewings, who placed it in their garden before re-shaping it as a gravestone. How much of the monument was lost during this process is unknown, for there is no contemporary illustration from the time of discovery. Nevertheless, the surviving portion was correctly identified as the upper part of a free-standing cross as far back as 1890. More recently, Alan Macquarrie proposed that the cross-head was probably similar to others of the Govan sculptural style, such as the still-intact example from Barochan (now in Paisley Abbey). The device of four serpents emerging from a central boss is reminiscent of the Sun Stone at Govan.

A reconstruction drawing of the Dumb Proctor appears on page 17 in the published version of Alan Macquarrie’s Govan Lecture for 2005. This was redrawn by Ingrid Shearer for a new book by Derek Alexander and Gordon McCrae on the history of Renfrewshire. My own attempt at a reconstruction can be seen below. It’s how I imagine the Dumb Proctor might have looked today if it still had its cross-head (in which case I suppose it wouldn’t look much like a proctor at all).

Strathclyde sculpture: the Dumb Proctor

My ‘reconstruction’ of the Dumb Proctor.

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Notes & references

All photographs and illustrations in this blogpost are copyright © T Clarkson.

Alan Macquarrie, Crosses and Upright Monuments in Strathclyde: Typology, Dating and Purpose (Govan: Friends of Govan Old, 2006), pp.17-18

Derek Alexander & Gordon McCrae, Renfrewshire: a Scottish County’s Hidden Past (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2012), pp.91-2.
[In my opinion, this book is an essential resource for anyone researching the kingdom of Strathclyde]

Derek Parker, ‘The Timeless Message of the Dumb Proctor’, Chatterbox, no.180 (2008)
[Chatterbox is a newsletter published by Lochwinnoch Community Council]

See also the entry for the Dumb Proctor on the Canmore database.

Allen and Anderson’s Early Christian Monuments of Scotland makes no mention of the Dumb Proctor, despite including Renfrewshire’s other surviving monuments of the Govan School. The Lochwinnoch volume of Archaeological and Historical Collections Relating to the County of Renfrew (the 1890 report mentioned above) had recognized the Proctor as an early Christian stone a dozen years before the compilation of ECMS. Were Allen and Anderson unaware of this?

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