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Early Christian Memorial Stone at Sampford Spiney

A Grade II Listed Building in Sampford Spiney, Devon

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Latitude: 50.5264 / 50°31'35"N

Longitude: -4.0755 / 4°4'31"W

OS Eastings: 252981

OS Northings: 71684

OS Grid: SX529716

Mapcode National: GBR NZ.J312

Mapcode Global: FRA 27CN.S32

Plus Code: 9C2QGWGF+HQ

Entry Name: Early Christian Memorial Stone at Sampford Spiney

Listing Date: 25 April 2019

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1462653

Location: Sampford Spiney, West Devon, Devon, PL20

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Sampford Spiney

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


An Early Christian Memorial Stone, thought to date from the C6-C8, in use as a gatepost.


An Early Christian memorial stone, thought to date from the C6-C8, in use as a gatepost.

MATERIALS AND PLAN: the stone is of granite and is in use as a gatepost, on the west side of a lane from Huckworthy Cross to Tavistock.

DESCRIPTION: the stone stands at approximately 1.6m high, although there is clearly further stone below ground. It has four letters cut into its eastern face reading RE NR. Towards the base of the stone is a vertical slot, which probably represents the horizontal letter I.

Close to the top of the stone are other marks which may represent further letters or which may be decorative.
There is a modern steel gate fixed to the stone.


Early Christian memorial stones are inscribed free-standing stones commemorating named individuals and dating to the early medieval period (AD 400-1100). The stones are erect, roughly dressed or undressed slabs, bearing incised inscriptions, usually set in one or more vertical lines down one face of the slab. Early Christian memorial stones are largely restricted to areas which retained Celtic traditions during the early medieval period. In England, they are almost entirely confined to the south-west peninsula.

This inscribed memorial stone at Sampford Spiney is thought to date from around the C6 to C8, and was first recorded in its present location as a field gatepost in 1997. It is an example of the memorial stones found in Devon and Cornwall, where they appear to have been used to commemorate important local people. Inscriptions on the stones are generally in Latin, and some incorporate Christian symbolism. Many of the names found on these stones are of Irish or Welsh origins, giving clues about the make-up of society in the region at that time, and the stones are likely to have commemorated the elite of that society.

The surviving text on the stone at Sampford Spiney is understood to read 'IRENR', although there may be letters lost from either end of the text. The inscription may have read '[the stone] of X', or '[the stone of] -us, [of] Renr-'. The origin of the name has not been established, but it may have similarities to Welsh names recorded from the period.

Reasons for Listing

The Early Christian Memorial Stone at Sampford Spiney, which is thought to date from the C6-C8, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* for the textual and sculptural interest of the inscription, as an example of early Christian text and language.

Historic interest:

* as a rare example of a memorial stone from the early Christian period, giving an insight into the rituals and practices of commemoration at that time.

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