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Pontefract Museum, Salter Row, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°41′32″N, 1°18′44″W)
Pontefract Museum, Salter Row
SE 455 220
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now West Yorkshire
medieval York
now Wakefield
  • Rita Wood
27 Jul 2001, 19 Dec 2014

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=14268.

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Feature Sets

The Museum is housed in a fine Art Deco building. The best items from the excavations of the Pontefract Priory were on display, although much Romanesque material was omitted. For this see the report on the Pontefract Museum store at Normanton.

The most relevant exhibits are parts of a standing monument and a chevron voussoir. A later stone lectern table has also been photographed and described, as it may be a useful comparison for Romanesque examples.


Loose Sculpture


The exhibited stones may have come from the Stump Cross on the Ferrybridge Road, or from a similar monument now lost. (See the separate report on Pontefract, Ferrybridge Road Stump Cross, where an arcaded base survives, apparently on an ancient boundary.) The Museum displays an antiquarian drawing (Fox 1827, 357) of a cross base with an inset shaft and a loose carved stone lying beside it, which romanticises the setting. All four faces sketched belong to one fragment, as the artist indicates. The faces show in turn: a symmetrical foliage pattern; a standing, possibly naked, man; a bird, and panels of star pattern. A sketch by John Carter (B. Mus. Add. 37552, fol. 758) shows the bird and the star patterns on the S and E sides of an upright stone set in a base with a foliate border; his note says 'Two sides of a Roman piece of Sculpture on the side of the road, from Pontefact to Ferry-bridge [but not the road mentioned in a previous Sketch]'. This was later used in Ancient Sculpture and Painting (1791, pl. CXI, 145) with further material, where the four designs seen separately in Fox's illustration are now shown as belonging to thefour sides of one piece of stone, which is set in a base.

The shaft in these antiquarian records cannot be identified with either of the stones in the Museum, although it clearly resembles them in several ways. The base sketched and illustrated by Carter does not seem to be the base existing on the Ferrybridge Road, since there is no room for the foliate border above the arcading on that base.

The date of the exhibited stones is likely to be mid-12thc. to judge by the foliate pattern with its stranded stem and cross-bindings.

There are at least three useful collections of reference material:

1. Kit Galbraith’s papers at the Society of Antiquaries in London (Soc. Ant. MS 903). These include correspondence with Battye, and black and white photographs by him of the stone with a seated man in a garden. He arranged for its removal to the Pontefract library/museum. There is a photograph of the other stone at Darrington. Further correspondence between Kit Galbraith and Henry Battye is in the box file at the Pontefract museum (2. below). Sources mentioned by Galbraith include: Gentleman’s Magazine, March 1806; Gough’s Britannia on the Old Market Cross; Allen, Hist. Yorks.; Fox, History of Pontefract; Camden, Britannia, III, II, 32; and B. Boothroyd, The History of the Ancient Borough of Pontefract.

2. Box file at Pontefract Museum. A newspaper cutting (undated) says that Henry Battye, the active agent in the recovery of both stones, had found ‘mention in old documents of stones being taken to (Darrington) church from the Butter Cross many years ago.’ To complicate matters, there is also talk of a 'Cross of St. Oswald'.

Old illustrations are as inconclusive as the textual evidence. A reproduction taken from Fox’s History of Pontefract was used as a 1970 Mayoral brochure of Pontefract, a copy of which is in the Galbraith papers. The image was given the title ‘Stump Cross in the seventeenth century’ and shows the stone with the seated man set in an arcaded base. This is not the same combination as that seen in the pen drawing said to be by Fox, the one used in the museum display and photographed for this archive, which shows a so far unidentified stone set in the block. There is also a drawing of the stone with the seated man set in a base in Camden’s Britannia, 1823 (see Courtauld neg. 415/34(21)). Elsewhere this Camden illustration, or one that is very similar, is described as coming from Gough. In this image the base has only two bays of arcade on one side.

3. Heritage Gateway website list of sites of the West Yorkshire Archaeological Service (accessed 23.12.2014) includes the following relevant monuments:

Monument no. 2413 is Stump Cross, or Ralph's Cross

Monument no. 2419 discusses an Anglo-Saxon item no longer extant, St Oswald's cross, and its probable site related to the later market place in Pontefract.

Monument no. 2485 describes the provenances of the two sculpted stones in the Pontefract Museum, as in this CRSBI report.

Monument no. 11840 is a boundary earthwork which may be Anglo-Saxon in origin, and/or may have marked the boundary between Pontefract and Ferry Fryston township, and/or the boundary of the Priory. The Stump Cross (no. 2413) is at its northern end.

Other standing monuments exist in the West Riding at Barnburgh, Thrybergh and Rawmarsh; other examples are recorded at Braithwell and Doncaster. The grave-slabs in Conisbrough church also used this source, a limestone with particular qualities. There would seem to be a multiplicity of monuments around Pontefract (Holmes 1893).


1066. English Romanesque Art 1066-1200. Exhibition catalogue. Hayward Gallery, London. (London, 1984)

J. Carter, Ancient Sculpture and Painting (London, 1791)

G. Fox, History of Pontefract, in Yorkshire (Pontefract, 1827)

R. Holmes, 'The boundary crosses of Pontefract', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 13 (1895), 559-61.

N. Pevsner, Yorkshire: West Riding. The Buildings of England (Harmondsworth, 1959) 2nd. edition revised E. Radcliffe (Harmondsworth, 1967).