Burnsall carved stones

  • Home
  • Burnsall carved stones
Historical Environment Record No:
OS Grid Reference:


Carved stone, Burnsall MYD4402

Carved stone, Burnsall MYD4402

St Wilfred’s Church in Burnsall was the site of the discovery of a remarkable collection of 9th and 10th century AD carved stones during refurbishment in the 19th century. The 13 fragments represent at least five large crosses and three hogback tombs. The carved motifs and shape of the cross heads are an interesting mix of Anglian and Anglo-Danish (Viking) styles indicating that Anglian stone carvers may have been commissioned to work for more recently arrived Danish masters.

The most complete cross is nearly 1.8 metres high and the head is 41cm across the arms. Like the other pieces, it is made from local gritstone. Decoration on the shaft includes ring-plaits and Scandinavian chain or vertebral patterns. The carver has had trouble finishing off the vertebral pattern top and bottom, showing that he was not used to carving in this style. The free-armed Anglian-style head has a crude knot work design.

One of the other crosses, found in pieces under the tower, is remarkable for the survival of its original red lead paint. We must imagine that all these carvings were originally brightly painted. The hogback tombs are distinctively Viking survivals. One has a muzzled bear at each end and in between a carved tiled roof-like structure reminiscent of Viking halls reconstructed by archaeologists in Denmark.

Carved stone, Burnsall MYD4402 (c) YDNPA, 2023

Carved stone, Burnsall MYD4402 (c) YDNPA, 2023


Collingwood, W G (1914) ‘Anglian and Anglo-Danish Sculpture in Yorkshire’ Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 23 pp146-152


St Wilfred's Church, Burnsall. Church is on east side of B6160 at the north end of Burnsall village. Open during daylight hours. See www.yorkshirechurches.com for details.

Public Transport Details

Nearest town/village: Burnsall. Call Traveline on 0870 608 2 608 to plan your journey. After the welcome message key in 885 for North Yorkshire information.


See www.yorkshirechurches.com for access details to church.