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Stolen medieval stone carvings found

10 January 2020

Fragment of a bear’s head

Fragment of a bear’s head

TWO ninth-century stone carvings that were stolen from a semi-ruined church near Darlington four years ago have been recovered by police (News, 1 April 2016).

Detectives in Durham were alerted to the whereabouts of the relics last month, and their authenticity has been confirmed.

They are a fragment of a bear’s head, possibly from a hogback (a Viking grave-marker), and part of a medieval cross carved with a small sword. A third artefact — a Viking runic inscription that reads “In memory of Mael-Muriel” — is still missing.

They had originally been collected by Sir Edward Buckley, a landowner who restored and reroofed part of a ruined Norman church, All Saints’, Sockburn, near Darlington, in 1905, specifically to house them. The pieces are all listed in a national catalogue of significant relics, The Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture, held by Durham University.

Part of a medieval cross carved with a small sword

The theft was reported in March 2016, but, because of the church’s isolated location, it could have occurred at any time since September 2015.

Detective Chief Inspector Lee Gosling, of Durham Constabulary, said on Tuesday: “These items have significant historical value, and their whereabouts have been unknown for nearly four years; so it is fantastic that they have been found.

“We are continuing to investigate the circumstances, and I am appealing to anyone with any information that may help us piece together their whereabouts over the past few years to get in touch.”

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