When I decided to do a book of cable designs, my current project, I knew I wanted some of the designs to feature Celtic knot cables, an art form I love. As always I wanted as much as possible to use Yorkshire sources for my inspiration. I had known for as long as I remember that anglo-saxon crosses feature celtic knots carved into the stone, and started to search for some in Yorkshire.
As a youngster anglo-saxon crosses and celtic knotwork were things I associated more with County Durham and places further Northward, probably because of the story of St Cuthbert and the Lindisfarne gospels. It wasn’t until I studied a theology degree with a focus on feminist theology that I learned about St Hild of Whitby. She was a major influence in the Celtic church, and through learning about her I began to understand that Yorkshire has a strong Celtic past. Because of their natural pride in St Hild there are many modern anglo-saxon style crosses in the Whitby area. But what about original ones?
Fortunately these days with the power of the internet it is possible to easily research things like this from the comfort of home. I soon discovered that there are two anglo-saxon cross bases within 5 miles of my house, including one in a churchyard that I pass every day when driving the boys to and from school! This image shows a drawing of it from 1893, by a local historian, which nicely delineates the knotwork which is not quite as distinguishable now:
The other cross base is at Hartshead Moor, and features more elaborate knotwork on several faces. This is another excellent sketch of one side:
Here’s a photo of another side which I took on a visit to the cross:
And here’s a sketch I’ve done of the knotwork on that face to reduce it to a symmetrical knot I could translate into a cable pattern. I still don’t know if I ever will do so!