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St John the Evangelist, Low Crosby (part of Crosby-on-Eden), Cumberland

(54°55′40″N, 2°51′45″W)
Low Crosby (part of Crosby-on-Eden)
NY 4481 5958
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Cumberland
now Cumbria
medieval Carlisle
now Carlisle
  • James King
  • James King
19 Aug 2018

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Feature Sets

Low Crosby is a village on the river Eden, about 6km NE of Carlisle. Hadrian’s Wall runs through the northern part of the parish. The medieval church of St John was rebuilt in 1854, but little is known about the previous medieval building. Preserved inside the church is a Romanesque baptismal font. Low Crosby and High Crosby jointly form the historical parish of Crosby-on-Eden.


Domesday book did not cover this part of England. King Henry I gave Linstock to Walter, his chaplain. It has been suggested that this was the same Walter who later, by 1150, had become prior at Carlisle. The priory of St Mary, Carlisle was founded in the early 1120s and the bishopric established in 1133. Walter appears to have given the grange of Crosby to the priory of St Mary when he joined the priory. There is little mention of the church at Crosby in the early years. In a charter from the early-13th century, in which land was given to the Priory of Wetherhal, ‘Normannus Capellanus de Crosby’ is mentioned. When the estates of the bishop and priory were partitioned in the first quarter of the 13th century, the barony of Linstock, which included the parish Crosby-on-Eden, was assigned to the Bishop of Carlisle. The division was undertaken through the pope’s Legate to England named Gualo. Pope Honorius III confirmed the division in 1221. The bishop of Carlisle had a residence at Linstock, which is just W of Crosby-on-Eden. In the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of 1291-2, the church of Crosby was assessed for £14. 0s 0d., with that for the vicarage given as £4. 5s 0d. In addition to this a pension for the bishop was given as £0. 2s. 0d. Following the Reformation, the vicarage of Crosby-on-Eden remained in the patronage of the bishop.





The baptismal font has been in its present location since at least 1888, when the Rev. Wilson described the font, including the damage. Questions remain over what caused the damage and exactly when it occurred. In 1703, Bishop Nicolson reported that the font was 'pretty well' and implied that the font was inside the earlier church building at this time. Wilson suggested that the damage to the font had occurred after 1703 and thought that it might have happened in 1745, tradition stating that in that year rebels of the Border feuds stabled horses in the church. In his article Wilson included a drawing of the font, but this does not show any of thick dark mortar at the top of the shaft, which may have been added at a later date.

In 2011 and 2012, excavations made in the SW corner of Low Crosby unearthed evidence for Roman occupation and also of 12th-century use, but no evidence for the period between these was recorded. In addition to this, neither the Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture nor Collingwood's Inventory of Ancient Monuments (Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 1923) record any known carved work from this intermediate period.

The so-called Bishop’s or Baron’s Dyke, on the east border of Crosby-on-Eden, formed a boundary between the barony of Linstock and the barony of Gilsland. This dyke is likely to have been built during the medieval period, but uncertainty about its origins means that it could also have been created somewhat earlier and continued in use during later centuries. What appears to be the case is that it was built specifically as a boundary rather than for military purposes. Little else is known about it, though the name given to it, which refers it as the bishop’s or baron’s, must be significant.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications: or, England’s Patron Saints, 3 (London, 1899), 99.

W. Bliss, ed., Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland, 1: 1198-1304 (London, 1893), 81.

J. Curwen, The Castles and Fortified Towers of Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire North-of-the-Sands (Kendal, 1913), 195 and 298-9.

J. Denton, et al., Taxatio (Sheffield, 2014), https://www.dhi.ac.uk/taxatio (accessed 21/02/22)

R. Ferguson, ed., Miscellany Accounts of the Diocese of Carlile, with the Terriers delivered in to me at my primary visitation. By William Nicolson, Late Bishop of Carlile (London, 1877), 105-6.

T. Graham, ‘The Medieval Diocese of Carlisle’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archeological Society, 2nd series: 25 (Kendal, 1925), 96-113.

T. Hodgson, ‘The Bishop’s or Baron’s Dyke, Crosby-on-Eden’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archeological Society, 1st series: 14 (Kendal, 1897), 144-6.

M. Hyde and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cumbria (New Haven and London, 2010), 305-6.

D. Jackson, D. O’Meara and M. Stoakley, ‘Land at Low Crosby, Cumbria: Results of an Archaeological Watching Brief’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archeological Society, 3rd series: 15 (Kendal, 2015), 29-44.

J. Nicolson and R. Burn, The History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, 2 (London, 1757), 453 and 456-7.

J. Prescott, ed., The Register of the Priory of Wetherhal (London, 1897), 240 no. 139 and fn. 3, 63 fn. 28, and 485.

W. Whellan, The History and Topography of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland (Pontefract, 1860), 83, 114-6, 158-9, 182 and 625.

J. Wilson, ‘The Baptismal Fonts in the Rural Deanery of Carlisle’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archeological Society, 1st series: 10 (Kendal, 1889), 236-7.

J. Wilson, ed., The Victoria History of the County of Cumberland, 1 (London, 1901), 290.

J. Wilson, ed., The Victoria History of the County of Cumberland, 2 (London, 1905), 121.