The Ixworth Cross
The Ixworth Cross
Describing its Finding

Background to the Ixworth Cross and Associated Finds

The Ixworth Cross seems to have derived its name from the location of the collector who first published details of these items, who was Joseph Warren of Ixworth. He published these items as "Saxon Remains found near Ixworth". This is reproduced below.

Joseph Warren was recorded in the Directories for 1823, 1830, 1839, 1844 and 1855 as a Watch and Clock Maker. His shop was in the High Street, Ixworth, and he also dealt in old coins and antiquities.

Some time after the event, Warren recorded in the notes he made for the eventual purchaser of his collection that,

"1856 February 18th. This day was brought me a Gold Cross set with small garnets, also the front of a circular gold fibula, covered with filigree work......they were found by a man raising gravel at Stanton."

Stanton was not mentioned in the published texts. It was only said that it was in the collection of Joseph Warren of Ixworth, and so it became called the Ixworth Cross.

Warren compared his cross with the so-called Wilton Cross, found a few years earlier. Warren believed that the Wilton Cross was found at Lakenheath, according to the article reprinted below.

At the foot of the page is shown St Cuthbert's Cross from Lindisfarne for comparison.

Introduction to the Article

What follows is the published text of the Ixworth Cross, taken from the Journal of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, Volume III, pages 296 to 298. This volume was dated 1863, but this was, in fact, a reprint of a previous article published in Smith's magazine called Collecteana Antiqua, Volume 4, page 162 onwards. The publication date of this is unclear, but it must have been at least a year after the finds were made.


The Ixworth Cross

The Ixworth Brooch


This cross is the one referred to in Warren's article as "one found in a
gravel pit at Lakenheath, near Brandon, in Suffolk, a few years since".
Now known as 'The Wilton Cross'


ST CUTHBERT'S CROSS

St Cuthbert died in the year 687, and was buried at the monastery on the island of Lindisfarne. Eventually his body was removed to Durham Cathedral, and in 1827 his tomb was opened and this gold pectoral cross was discovered around his neck. This cross must date from a similar period to the Ixworth Cross, but presumably was made in a Northern workshop.

St Cuthbert's cross is inlaid with garnets, just as in our cross, and the overall shape is similar. The association of such a cross with a Bishop, as Cuthbert became in 685, may indicate that the Ixworth Cross could have a similar background. Was the Ixworth Cross also the property of a Bishop or similar highly placed churchman?


THE TRUMPINGTON CROSS FOUND IN 2012


The Trumpington Cross
One of the most unusual Christian burials known in Britain has been found near Cambridge near Junction 11 of the M11. The body of an Anglo-Saxon teenage girl had been interred on a wooden bed, wearing a striking gold cross set with garnets. On March 16th the Times reported on this rare archaeological find in a female grave at Trumpington. The cross, valuable enough to suggest that the girl, 16, was of high status, is only the fifth of its kind to be found, and was excavated from her grave in Trumpington, Cambridgeshire. She was in one of four graves, the others being more typical examples of Anglo-Saxon burials of the time, with no indications of Christianity. Set with garnets, the cross dates the grave to between 650AD and 680AD.

“We think there’s only been one other bed burial combined with a Christian pectoral cross ever found,” said Alison Dickens, of Cambridge University’s archaeological unit. “Bed burials are conspicuously rare, but there is a little cluster around the Cambridge area.”

The cross, 3.5cm (1.5in) in diameter, is only the fifth such piece to be found in the UK. The most famous came from the coffin of St Cuthbert (died 687) in Durham Cathedral. It is very similar to the Ixworth Cross and the Wilton Cross, both found in the 19th century. A cemetery at Westfield, Ely, dug by the Cambridge unit in 2006, also contained a later 7th-century burial with a cross pendant, of a child aged 10-12, probably a girl, who was thought to have been associated with the first monastery at Ely.


INFORMATION UPDATE 2014

At lectures given at Sutton Hoo in July 2014, Dr Sam Lucy advanced our ideas about these crosses. Beginning with the Trumpington Cross, which is a modern and well recorded excavation, we find that the reverse of this cross contains small brackets which were used to sew the cross on to a garment at the neck. Gold and garnet link pins were also found by the head which were used to fasten a veil or headdress. This bed burial and associated jewellery is undoubtedly a female grave.

This leads us to the possibility that all the bed burials so far discovered may well be female graves, and that these so-called pectoral crosses were not indicative of male bishops, but of high status Christian women, who themselves may have led a female religious community.

The radio carbon dating obtained for the Trumpington body is from 665 to 680 AD.

Re-examination of the illustrated iron fittings, described above as found with the Ixworth/Stanton Cross, has led to the conclusion that this was also a bed burial. Taken together with the associated fibula or brooch, it is easy to conclude that the grave occupant was most probably a woman.

Where does this leave St Cuthbert's Cross? Cuthbert died in a hermit's cell on Inner Farne island on or about 20th March, 687 AD. It is immediately unlikely that such an ascetic would have worn a valuable jewel. The body was taken to Lindisfarne for burial. Even at Lindisfarne the grave was soon opened so that his body could be moved to a new resting place at the high altar in 698. In 875 the body was removed to avoid viking raids, and apparently it wandered for seven years until located at Chester Le Street, where King Aethelstan is recorded as visiting the shrine. He left valuable textiles to adorn the shrine. There was a further move to Ripon in 995, and a final move to Durham. At Durham the shrine was moved more than once until the great Norman cathedral was built by 1104.

It seems quite probable that the cross was a gift from a female pilgrim, and could have been inserted into the coffin as early as the 690s.


Article, "Saxon Remains found near Ixworth", taken from Volume III of the Journal of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology
Trumpington Cross details from The Times of 16th and 17th March, 2012


Go to Anglo Saxons Homepage Created 25th March 2007
Update 17th March 2012 and new aspects added July 22nd 2014.
Go to Home Page