Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Conishead Runes | Snapshot Series

In 1928 a block or red sandstone was discovered at Conishead Priory during an excavation of the medieval priory. This stone was the capital of a pilaster (an architectural element used to give the appearance of a supporting column) which would have once been part of the priory church. There was something different about this stone though, interestingly it had a runic inscription carved into it. Not something you would usually expect from a Medieval monastic site. The runes themselves had been translated as 'Dotbert' or 'Rotbert' (as in Robert) but some have suggested that it may translate as 'Kotbert' meaning Cuthbert, which could be very interesting.

Sadly this fascinating block went missing sometime after its discovery and its whereabouts became unknown. That is until a chance visit to an English Heritage store in 2016 led to its re-discovery!

I, the author of Furness Hidden Heritage, had visited the English Heritage stores in Helmsley to view the artefacts in storage there from Furness Abbey. While being shown around I was intrigued by one particular piece of stone which had a runic inscription upon it. The curators at the store were unsure as to what the inscription said and were under the belief that it was a stone from Furness Abbey. It certainly is in the same red sandstone synonymous with the abbey so it easily fit with all the other artefacts in storage.

Image courtesy of Greenlane Archeology.
I was curious about the stone so took a picture of the inscription for my own records. On leaving the stores I didn't put much more thought into the stone until one day when I was reading up on the priory at Conishead. I had found a report by Greenlane Archaeology, of Ulverston, and in the document there was mention of a unique stone found at Conishead with a runic inscription, a stone that's whereabouts was now unknown. Below the text was a black and white picture of the very same block I had seen in the stores.

My heart jumped and I immediately thought "I know where that is!". Quickly I checked the photograph I had taken of the stone in the stores to confirm my initial thoughts and yes, the runes matched, they were the same stone!

I soon got in contacted with Danny of Greenlane Archaeology to let him know of my discovery. He immediately got in contact with the curators at English Heritage and soon had confirmation that the Conishead Runes indeed sat on a shelf in the Helmsley stores. This marked the re-discovery of this fantastic piece of local history.

The Snapshot Series is a series of short posts on singular locations, features or artefacts found in the Furness area. Not large enough to warrant a long blog post we will explore these sites in snapshots!