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Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club ,1929


Guest Contribution: Two Ancient Stones at Llanveynoe Church

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900 - 1000 AD




by Alfred Watkins, F.R.P.S.

(Read 23rd July, 1929.)

These two important stones are built flush into the south wall within the nave of Llanveyno Church; Herefordshire, having been placed there in an enlargement of the nave in 1912.

Mrs. Richmond, of Shrewsbury (formerly of Dulas Court), who has been much interested in the stones for over forty years, called my attention to them. Her recollection was of their being  found west of the church on the slope towards the Olchon Brook.  Also she had some idea of their origin from an old " Saxon burying' ground," north of the church. Local knowledge does not go beyond their being taken from outside the building, where they were lying about before the enlargement of the church.

The larger stone with the figure is four feet high, the smaller one with lettering is two feet high, with the top of its Latin cross broken away. The outline of this cross looks as if it had been deepened with a chisel quite recently, but not the lettering, although some of this is filled with mortar scraped off level, suggesting that, the stones had been built into a wall.

I submitted the photographs to Mr. Reginald A. Smith, Keeper of Antiquities at the British Museum, and received the following opinion:—

" I enclose a rough transcript, and assign both stones to the tenth century, the lettering being Hiberno-Saxon. The head of one cross is missing, and the other shows an early type of crucifixion to which I can find no parallel. I should hesitate to call the holes on the crucifix cup and ring markings, and think another explanation can be found."

Mr. Smith's transcript is as below :

X P C                                   HAES : DUR


T~H S                                               CRUCEM


I now give my own notes. On the inscription stone three emblems are arranged symmetrically on the arms of the cross, the right-hand one resembling an M wrong way up, not noted in the above transcript. Mr. Smith makes a query-note over the " S " in HAES, and it is not certain that DUR is part of the same word ; if it is, the reading seems to be


As regards the first emblem, it is an evolution from that Chi-Rho monogram, originating in the fourth century under Constantine in Rome, formed from the first two of the Greek letters of the name of Christ, XPICTOC. The monogram has been found in a few places in Romano-Britain, and on a few later stones con­nected with churches, viz.: three in West of England, one in South Wales, four in south-west Scotland, and none in Ireland.

I get my information from Christian Symbolism, by the late Mr. Romilly Allen, who also quotes five later stones with the first two letters combined with the last letter, as a contraction, not a monogram, thus : X P S, sometimes with the old form of S made like a C. Two of these are at Penarthur and St. Edrens, both in Pembrokeshire, the I H C and X P C symbols occurring together, with also Alpha and Omega, both on slabs with crosses.

The second emblem, the I H S, came later, and originated in the East, according to Mr. Rory Allen (Notes and Queries, July 13, 1929). Not until the ninth century did it begin to come into use in Europe. It is formed, both in its version of I H S and I H C, from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus. It was not, says Mr. Allen, as so often stated, derived from the initial letters of Jesu Hominum Salvator, nor those of In hoc signo, Latin not being its origin. Nor was it created in the fifteenth century through the preaching of St. Bernardus of Sienna. At any rate, here it was in the tenth century at this Welsh Border mountain-settlement of Llanveyno, with other Christian emblems and an early crucifixion.

The Irish-Saxon lettering will perhaps suggest to students some early facts regarding this remote mountain district, which still possesses vague traditions of early Christianity, such as of St. Paul coming preaching over the mountains and giving name to the Gospel Pass, in which, as Mr. Portman, of Hay, tells me, is the Golden Stone, with a cross cut on it.

I have little to tell regarding the larger stone, with its very primitive Crucifixion, the arms straight, head slightly on one side, feet as if standing, and body apparently wearing a tunic.

The strange cut-hollows or imperfections in the stone have obviously nothing to do with the figure design, but have some resemblance to prehistoric cup-hollows. Cup-hollows have been found on some Scottish cross-slabs, and the base of the cross in Flintshire called Maen-Chwyfan is shown by Owen in Stone Crosses in the Vale of Clwyd to have cup-hollows,

These hollows at Llanveyno are neither cups nor cups with rings, as are the known prehistoric ones, but have some appearance of resulting from a natural pudding-stone formation. Washing the stone on a second visit to test this matter, I found that all the centre bosses absorbed water very quickly, at the same rate as the rest of this porous sandstone, and that there is no juncture between each boss and the ring round it, all being the same piece of stone, although some experimenter probing with a knife had given a different appearance to the top hollow. Also that the hollow which looks like the matrix of a pebble (that under the head), is not so, as its edges are undercut and no pebble could have come out. In short, that the markings are all humanly cut, and not formed geologically. I cannot say whether they were cut before or after the carving of the figure, nor indicate their purpose. They might indicate a pagan stone Christianised.



note.—The President, after the reading of the above Paper, gave his opinion that the third symbol might be the Omega. This is probable, as the Alpha and Omega are on the two Pembrokeshire stones referred to, although in other types of lettering.

Mr. Guy Trafford, also listening to the Paper, recollected the remarkable fact that he was present at the first digging up of one of the stones, that with inscription, and put the date at about 1888. It was found just outside the churchyard wall on the north side, and he took a photograph of it at the time, and asked the men to take care of it. This was after the first restoration of the church in 1877.

It would seem that the other stone was found separately, perhaps where Mrs. Richmond preserves the recollection or association.




Reproduced from the Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club with the permission of the Central Committee


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