The monument comprises a decorated cross-shaft, dating to between the 10th and 11th centuries AD, carved in sandstone. Currently sited by a roadside, the stone has been relocated at least twice. It is thought to have stood in a field known as Cross-Stane Park but by 1795 it was in use as a bridge over a stream in the Colinbar area. About 1870 it was re-erected in the grounds of Arthurlee House. Based on the visible decoration, the shaft has been reduced in length and there are reports that an iron ring was set into its side, suggesting it served as a gate pier. Some time around 1942, the cross was relocated to its present position. Today the cross is set into a modern sandstone base fixed to a concrete plinth and stands within a small garden enclosure by a public road.
Standing about 2.2m high, the stone is 0.5m wide and 0.2m deep and bears panels of interlace decoration on all four sides but is heavily worn on the rear face. The front is divided into three panels of decoration. The first contains a panel of interlace in a pattern known as an eight-cord broken plait work that lay beneath the cross-head. The middle panel contains a large piece of interlace, while the bottom panel contains a long cross with a bead-moulded outline. While the cross itself is plain and unornamented, it is surrounded by four smaller panels of interlace, two on either side of the top arm and one on either side of the shaft. A fifth panel of interlace, below the cross-shaft, is heavily defaced and is now unrecognisable.
The rear of the stone is adorned with four panels of decoration. The topmost is heavily eroded and the carved detail is difficult to see. The second panel contains a clearly defined interlace pattern although the third panel below is worn almost smooth, obliterating the decoration. The final panel also contains an interlace decoration but this is only partially visible as the shaft has been truncated. The sides of the cross both bear decoration. The left side displays two long panels of double-beaded interlace, divided by a pair of dog-like creatures. The right side contains three panels of double-beaded interlace.
The Scheduled area is shown in red on the attached map.
Description added on 24 November 2011
Statement of National Importance
The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:
Executed in the distinctive manner of the important collection of carved stones at Govan Old Parish church, the Arthurlee Cross probably dates to about AD 1000- 1100. It belongs to a group of monuments executed in a style found throughout the British (early medieval) kingdom of Strathclyde (an area that probably encompassed modern Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire). This group of sculpture is among the least studied of Scotland's early Christian monuments.
Apart from the Govan collection, the Strathclyde monuments are poorly recorded and not well-known. However, the sculpture has come to be recognised as central to any understanding of the British kingdom in Strathclyde. While there are several freestanding crosses in the Strathclyde sculptural tradition, the Arthurlee Cross survives in the best condition and can therefore help us interpret less-well preserved examples. Unlike the Barochan Cross, with its depiction of warfare, the decoration found on the Arthurlee Cross is dominated by a single religious symbol with a small pair of animals on one side.
Although the Strathclyde sculpture exhibits less of the technical expertise or artistic vision seen in the finest sculpture of the Picts or the Gaels, this does not diminish its wider value. The flatness and lack of detail on the worn surfaces may indicate that sculptures were finished with paint. The contrast with other early medieval sculpture in Scotland will in part be a reflection of chronology, local political circumstances and prevailing tradition and status of patronage of the arts, including the access to art of other media (such as manuscripts).
Like other freestanding crosses of the period, the setting of the Arthurlee Cross remains an important concept in our understanding of the monument. In its original location, the cross possessed fine views over the south side of Glasgow and along the valley of the Levern Water. More importantly, the Arthurlee Cross stood near the boundary of Paisley parish and close to an important route leading to Irvine where it would have been regularly seen by travellers.
The Arthurlee Cross belongs to a distinctive school of sculpture representing one of the most tangible links with the early medieval kingdom of Strathclyde. Of all the early medieval British kingdoms in Scotland, Strathclyde is probably the best understood owing to its longevity. There are several known freestanding crosses surviving in the region, the best examples being the Barochan Cross and the Netherton Cross, both of which offer possible examples for reconstructing the lost cross-head.
As noted above, the Strathclyde school of sculpture represents the most visible legacy of the early medieval kingdom of Strathclyde. Emerging from the Iron Age/Roman Iron Age tribe known as the Damnonii, it was one of at least four native British princedoms spanning southern Scotland and northern England in the 5th and 6th centuries. Throughout its long history, its principal royal centre lay at Dumbarton (named by the Anglo-Saxon writer Bede as Alt Clut), although it is likely that other centres also existed. Like the other early medieval British kingdoms its boundaries appear to have been fluid, although its core appears to have been the middle Clyde. By the 10th century, Strathclyde controlled much of south-west Scotland and a large portion of Cumbria, although it seems unlikely to have been truly independent, being partly or wholly under the control of the Kings of Scots. Traditionally Strathclyde is regarded as ending as a political entity in the years immediately following 1018, when its king fought (and possibly died) at the Battle of Carham, as part of the Scottish force fighting against the Northumbrians. However, at least one successor to this king is named so it is likely that the British kingdom continued against a backdrop of increasing Scottish influence and control. Even when British independence had ceased in the 12th century, the region appears to have retained its character as the great army that King David I led into England is described as containing a great variety of peoples, including Cumbrians (a euphemism for Britons).
The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to the understanding of the past, in particular the study of early medieval stone sculpture in south-west Scotland. The Arthurlee Cross is in good condition and is widely regarded as the best surviving example of its type. Although not in its original location, its provenance is relatively well understood. It represents part of a group of sculpture that is highly significant for our understanding of the British kingdom or kingdoms in Strathclyde before the 11th century. Present models show this sculpture to be complex with a great diversity of monument types, decorative motifs and landscape locations. The Strathclyde group of sculpture has not been researched as extensively as other early medieval sculpture in Scotland, and the Strathclyde school is not as technically or artistically accomplished. However, this does not diminish its wider significance. Links with sculpture elsewhere in Scotland and other parts of the British Isles, not least Whithorn, are important and these too require further study. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the sculpture of south-west Scotland, as well as our knowledge of the early historic society that produced it.
Statement added on 24 November 2011
RCAHMS record the site as NS45NE 5. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 7561.
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, vol 2 454
Driscoll S, O'Grady O and Forsyth K, 2005, 'The Govan School Revisited: searching for meaning in the early medieval sculpture of Strathclyde' in Foster and Cross (eds) Able Minds and Practised Hands: Scotland's Early Medieval Sculpture in the 21st century, Society of Medieval Archaeology Monograph 23, Maney, 135-58
Driscoll S and Forsyth K, 2004, 'The late Iron Age and early historic period'. Scottish Archaeological Journal 26, 4-20
Historic Scotland Conservation Centre, 2000, 'Arthur's Cross, Barrhead: Condition Report', unpubl report
Details added on 24 November 2011
About Scheduled Monuments
Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.
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Printed: 22/04/2019 15:36