Scheduled Monument

Govan, carved stones and Old Parish Church graveyardSM10393

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).

The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.

Summary

Date Added
19/11/2003
Type
Crosses and carved stones: cross-incised stone; inscribed stone; sculptured stone (not ascribed to a more specific type); tombstone, Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard
Local Authority
Glasgow
Parish
Govan
NGR
NS 55354 65878
Coordinates
255354, 665878

Description

The monument comprises a collection of 31 early medieval carved stones in Govan Old Parish Church, and the graveyard S and E of Govan Old Parish Church from which the carved stones were recovered. Broadly, the surviving Govan corpus of carved stones comprises one sarcophagus, five hogback tombstones, two cross-shafts, two upright cross-slabs and 21 recumbent cross-slabs. At least 16 further stones, now missing, also seem to have been recumbent cross-slabs.

The present Govan Old Parish Church (which is itself excluded from the scheduling) was built in 1884-88 on an ecclesiastical site which has seen a succession of churches dating back at least to the medieval period. The present building replaced a church built in 1826, which had itself replaced a church built in 1762 when the medieval church was demolished. Traces of the foundations of the medieval church were uncovered in excavations in the mid 1990s, and these overlay earlier burials in simple dug graves, which probably take the history of the burial ground back into early medieval times.

The distinctive pear-shape of the graveyard, some 110m x 95m across and defined by the modern graveyard wall, probably reflects the shape and size of an early Christian enclosure. Evidence of an original entrance was found by excavation in the SE angle of the modern enclosure wall, together with a large ditch on its S and E sides belonging to the original earthwork enclosure. The remains of workshops or dwellings were also identified within the enclosure. A metalled road in the SE of the graveyard would have directly linked the ecclesiastical site with a large grassy mound called Doomster Hill (now destroyed), which once stood E of the graveyard and is thought to have been an important assembly place.

The large and curvilinear enclosure at Govan suggests that this was an important lay cemetery. It was also an important centre of lay patronage for a school of carving to judge from the 47 (minimum number) early medieval carved stones recovered from within the present graveyard in the last 150 years. Thirty-one of these carved stones survive at Govan today (30 inside the church and one in the graveyard), the majority spanning the 9th to 11th centuries AD.

The surviving stones are briefly described individually below. The numbering accords with that published in 1903 in 'The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland' (ECMS) by J R Allen and J Anderson.

The Govan Cross (also known as the Jordanhill Cross; not numbered in ECMS) comprises a freestanding cross-shaft of sandstone measuring 1.52m x 0.46m x 0.21m. The shaft is broken just below where the head of the cross would have once been located. All elevations of the cross are intricately carved with interlace and key pattern designs. On one of the broad faces there is also a figure on horseback. This cross-shaft is thought to be 10th or 11th century in date.

No. 1. The Govan sarcophagus measures 2.1m x 0.79m (head) x 0.65m (foot) x 0.34m deep. The sarcophagus is carved from a monolith of sandstone and is highly decorated on its four external sides, with low relief interlaced patterns, a figure on horseback and various beasts. It has no cover. Found in 1855 when digging a grave at the SE corner of the graveyard, the sarcophagus is thought to date to the 10th or early 11th century. Three sarcophagi were present at Govan church in the 18th century, one of which doubtless contained the relics of the particular St Constantine to whom the church is dedicated.

Nos. 2, 3, 10, 11 and 12. Five hogback stones. Stone No. 2 measures 1.98m x 0.7m x 0.28m; Stone 3 measures 2.2m x 0.75m x 0.58m; Stone 10 measures 2.42m x 0.7m x 0.5m; Stone 11 measures 2.38m x 0.69m x 0.65m; and Stone 12 measures 2.1m x 0.78m x 0.37m. The hogback stones, which may be the tomb monuments of important Scandinavian leaders, are thought to date to the 10th century. With the exception of Stone 2, which can be compared with Cumbrian examples, the Govan hogbacks are distinguished from all others in the British Isles by their massive scale. They are all carved from (probably local) carboniferous sandstone. The carving is in low relief and incised detail, with characteristic plait marking on both sides and interlace designs.

No. 4 (also known as the Sun Stone). An upright cross-slab of sandstone with curving sides which taper towards the top. It measures 1.69m x 0.67m by 0.19m. On one face is an outline Latin cross filled with interlace designs, and below this a rider on a galloping horse. On the other side is a large boss from which project four snake-like creatures; below this is a fret-patterned panel. The Sun Stone may be 10th century in date.

No. 5 (also known as the Cuddy-Stane). An upright cross-slab of sandstone measuring 1.15m x 0.37m x 0.15m. One side depicts a figure on horseback and, beneath it, the inverted initials 'I A' and 'J W'. On the reverse can be seen the shaft of a cross. This stone may also be 10th century in date.

No. 6. A recumbent cross-slab measuring 1.78m x 0.5m x 0.15m. The carved surface is badly weathered and only a vague impression of the cross and the associated interlaced patterns is visible. Around the circumference of the rounded head is an incised inscription reading 'bellyhoustons'.

No. 7. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone. It measures 1.7m x 0.52m x 0.18m and depicts a circular interlace design at the base, over which is an incised cross superimposed with the words 'Willm Bogle' and the letters 'R D'.

No. 8. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone, broken into two with a diagonal fracture separating the pieces. It measures 1.7m x 0.56m x 0.14m overall. The cross, surrounded by interlaced pattern, remains clearly visible, together with the initials 'M W'.

No. 9. An incised recumbent cross-slab of sandstone, fractured near the head of the cross. It measures 1.14m x 0.52m x 0.1m overall. The cross is filled with and surrounded by interlace patterns. At its base is a small panel where the superimposed initials 'W Z' and 'I P' appear inverted.

(Nos. 10, 11 and 12. See Nos. 2 and 3 above).

No. 13. A recumbent cross-slab measuring 1.32m x 0.68m x 0.19m, carved from a monolith of carboniferous sandstone. The well-preserved ornament comprises an incised cross surrounded by interlaced patterns. There are pronounced angle-knobs at the corners of the slab.

No. 14. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone, apparently incomplete, measuring 1.39m x 0.5m x 0.15m. It is badly weathered but the original carved detail comprised an incised cross, filled with and surrounded by interlaced designs.

No. 15. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone measuring 1.46m x 0.59m x 0.15m. Its surface is worn but shows an incised cross surrounded by interlaced patterns; in the centre of the cross are superimposed the letters 'T A E A' and the date 1723.

No. 16. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone measuring 1.79m x 0.56m x 0.2m. Its carved surface is badly weathered with traces of an interlace pattern only intermittently visible.

No. 17. A badly weathered recumbent cross-slab of sandstone, measuring 1.45m x 0.59m x 0.15m. The remaining carving is apparent at the base and the top. At the base is a square interlaced panel and around the top the outline of a cross-head and some interlace work. In the centre are incised the initials 'W I' and the date 1634.

No. 21. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone measuring 1.74m x 0.59m x 0.17m. It is in two fragments, with the fracture occurring near the base. The merest shadow of the original carving remains, although with a raking light the outline of a cross and interlaced designs are discernible.

No. 23. A broken recumbent cross-slab measuring 1.55m x 0.71m x 0.18m. The decorated surface is worn but a clearly defined incised margin, part of a cross-shaft (superimposed with early modern lettering) and interlaced designs are still visible.

No. 25. A sandstone recumbent cross-slab measuring 1.77m x 0.68m x 0.19m. It displays virtually no carved detail; only the later incised letters 'W R' are visible.

No. 27. A recumbent cross-slab of carboniferous sandstone measuring 1.8m x 0.53m x 0.2m. It consists of two fragments, with the fracture near the base of the cross. The top right corner is badly weathered and much of the carved surface has been lost. Elsewhere the carved interlaced patterns and other details remain legible. The stone is supported on a low painted timber plinth incorporating a chamfered block.

No. 28. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone measuring 1.65m x 0.57m x 0.29m. The carving incorporates an incised cross surrounded by interlace designs, superimposed with the initials 'T A', 'E A', 'E A' and the date 1723.

Nos. 29. A freestanding cross-shaft of sandstone measuring 2.0m x 0.5m x 0.23m. The shaft is broken just below the head. The edges bear well-preserved panels of interlace and key-ornament. Its broad faces are heavily worn but one of them bears a figure scene, the only one (other than riders) in the surviving Govan corpus. The cross-shaft is probably of 10th- or 11th-century date.

No. 31. A large fragment, 1.08m x 0.63m x 0.28m, of a recumbent cross-slab of sandstone. Only a shadow of the original carved features remains, although the beading on either side is still well-defined.

No. 32. A recumbent cross-slab of carboniferous sandstone measuring 1.83m x 0.65m x 0.16m. Though weathered, it clearly depicts a cross filled with and surrounded by interlaced patterns. Around the head of the cross are superimposed the letters 'T H' and 'E H'.

No. 33. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone, fractured in two places across its width, measuring 1.74m x 0.55m x 0.22m. It displays some interlaced carving near its base and has a tooled margin c. 50mm wide around its circumference.

No. 34. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone measuring 1.29m x 0.56m x 0.19m. It appears to be incomplete as the carving terminates abruptly at an angle next to the base. An incised cross superimposed with the initials 'A R, I R' is clearly visible, originally filled with and surrounded by interlaced key patterns.

No. 35. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone measuring 1.73m x 0.57m x 0.26m. It is carved with an incised cross, densely surrounded by interlace designs.

No. 38. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone measuring 1.83m x 0.6m x 0.19m. Although badly worn, a cross surmounted by interlaced patterns remains clearly visible. In the head of the cross are the incised initials 'T H' and 'E H'.

No. 42. A recumbent cross-slab of sandstone located in the graveyard (SW of the tower base, close to the side entrance to the church). It measures 1.86m x 0.55m x 0.26m, but no detail of its carving survives.

The area proposed for scheduling comprises the whole of the graveyard and the 30 carved stones within the church, as described above. The area proposed for scheduling is irregular on plan, with maximum dimensions of 108m due N-S by 92m due E-W, as indicated in red on the accompanying map. The church building itself and all its fixtures, fittings and contents (with the exception of the 30 carved stones described above) are entirely excluded from the scheduling. In the graveyard, the top 30cm of deposits, including the surfaces of all paths and tracks, is excluded from the scheduling, as are the above-ground elements of the modern graveyard wall, to allow for routine maintenance. Any burial lairs which are still active are also excluded from the scheduling.

Statement of National Importance

The carved stones and the graveyard where they were found are of national importance on a number of levels. The site as a whole has the potential to contribute to an understanding of the development of early ecclesiastical and secular centres in Scotland at a critical period during the formation of the Scottish nation.

The Govan corpus of carved stones is of national importance for the study of early medieval art and monumental sculpture, both as a group and in some cases individually. In its general character the Govan corpus is unique: no other extant collection in western Scotland testifies to an important centre of lay patronage of a lively school of carving. The Govan hogbacks also have the potential to open a window on the nature and extent of Scandinavian influence in western Scotland. The site as a whole, and the carved stones in particular, have the potential to elucidate the processes of cultural exchange between the different ethnic groups present in 9th- to 11th-century Strathclyde, and to demonstrate the influences and contacts of the Strathclyde Britons and their descendants further afield.

References

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NS56NE 17.00 and 17.01. The church is Category A listed (HB 33353).

References:

Allen J R and Anderson J 1903, THE EARLY CHRISTIAN MONUMENTS OF SCOTLAND: A CLASSIFIED ILLUSTRATED DESCRIPTIVE LIST OF THE MONUMENTS WITH AN ANALYSIS OF THEIR SYMBOLISM AND ORNAMENTATION, Edinburgh, pt. 3, 462-71.

Cowan I B 1967, 'The parishes of medieval Scotland', SCOT REC SOC, 93, Edinburgh, 77-8.

Driscoll S T and Cullen I S 1994, 'Govan Old Parish Church trial excavations (Govan parish)', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 68.

Driscoll S T and Will B 1996, 'Govan Old Parish Church and Water Row (Govan parish), medieval church and settlement', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 55-56.

Govan and Barony Churches 1889, 'Recent architecture in the West of Scotland, 1, Govan and Barony Churches', SCOT ART REV, 2.

Honeyman J 1889, 'The sarcophagus in Govan Churchyard', THE REGALITY CLUB, 1, 31-6.

Lang J T 1975, 'Hogback monuments in Scotland', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT, 105, 212-15, 224-6.

MacKie E W 1975, SCOTLAND: AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL GUIDE: FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE TWELFTH CENTURY, London, 108-9.

Nicholson C 1889, 'Recent architecture in the west of Scotland, 1, Govan and Barony Churches', SCOT ART REV, 2, 114-20.

Radford C A R 1970, GLASGOW CATHEDRAL, Edinburgh, 7-8.

Ritchie A ed. 1994, GOVAN AND ITS EARLY MEDIEVAL SCULPTURE, Stroud.

Ritchie A 1999, GOVAN AND ITS CARVED STONES, Angus.

SDD 1960, LIST OF BUILDINGS OF ARCHITECTURAL OR HISTORICAL INTEREST, (Lists held in Architectural Department of RCAHMS) Scottish Development Department, Glasgow, 15 May 1987, 17-18.

Scott H et al eds. 1915-61, FASTI ECCLESIAE SCOTICANAE: THE SUCCESSION OF MINISTERS IN THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND FROM THE REFORMATION, Edinburgh, Vol. 3, 409-14, Rev.

Stevenson J B 1985, 'EXPLORING SCOTLAND'S HERITAGE: THE CLYDE ESTUARY AND CENTRAL REGION', Exploring Scotland's Heritage Series, Edinburgh, 106-7, No. 64.

Stuart J 1856, SCULPTURED STONES OF SCOTLAND, Aberdeen, 1, 43.

Taylor T and Aston M 1997, TIME TEAM 97: THE SITE REPORTS: TONY ROBINSON AND THE TEAM INVESTIGATE SITES IN THE UNITED STATES, BIRMINGHAM, CORNWALL, GLASGOW, NORTH YORKSHIRE AND ON SALIBURY PLAIN PLUS SITE UPDATES FROM THE FIRST THREE SERIES, London, 23-9.

Thomson T B S post-1945, A GUIDE TO GOVAN OLD PARISH CHURCH, GLASGOW, [s.l.] (Glasgow], 1-24.

Walker D M 1993, 'GOVAN OLD: ITS PLACE IN NINETEENTH AND EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY CHURCH DESIGN', Soc Friends Govan Old Annu Rep, 3rd Annual Report.

Williamson E, Riches A and Higgs M 1990, GLASGOW, The buildings of Scotland Series, London, 586-8.

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