From The Stone Crosses of the County of Northamptonshire (1901) by C A Markham

Mike Pitts in a Guardian article on Sunday the 25th April highlighted the danger of an Anglo-Saxon carved stone cross shaft being sold in the saleroom of Bonhams auctioneers. The cross dedicated to Saint Pega (who died in AD 716, and was England’s first female hermit) was from Peakirk in Northamptonshire. As an invaluable piece of our heritage, that it should go on to the open market, with the danger of it being exported abroad, raised alarm bells in the archaeological world. Two things came to light about this stone, firstly that although the chapel and house in which it had been housed were listed buildings under English law, the stone was not, and of course stone as a material is not covered by the Treasure Act.

Professor Rosemary Cramp, a leading expert on Anglo-Saxon history said she had worked hard to “stop a market in these monuments from being created”.

It was indeed unfortunate that the owner of the house in which the stone had been kept for the last few years, had merely decided to sell the stone on a whim, rather than with a profit motive in mind.

But the seventh cavalry came charging in at the last moment, and it can be revealed that, “it was the Guardian wot won it”. In an article on Thursday 29th, Mike Pitts, ever so slightly victorious, wrote that Bonham’s had withdrawn the cross from sale on Tuesday evening, in no small part to letters of protest written by Janet Gough (director of cathedrals and church buildings for The Church of England) and Mike Heyworth (director of the Council for British Archaeology).

So the cross is saved, its’ future not known at the present time, though it would obviously be preferable that it ended up in Peterborough Museum for public display. For more information the following links lead to the two original articles and the   link  below raises a more serious question as to the legality of selling ‘ancient stones’….

“Bonhams established it [sc. the cross] was not part of the listed building, which would have prevented the sale: the church had simply sold it with the house without restrictions, and it’s not physically attached… But there is a more important issue here.

“Has the cross been “removed from a building or structure of historical, architectural or archaeological interest where the object has at any time formed part of the building or structure”? Would the cross be protected under the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003?”.    Looting Matters blog

Save Our Anglo-Saxon Stone  Mike Pitts – Guardian Article; 25th April 2010

Has the stone been saved?     Mike Pitts – Guardian article; 28th April 2010

Paul Barford’s excellent blog also highlights the perils.