Recent work has concentrated on gathering existing 'baseline' data before the fieldwork really starts in earnest. The Gloucester Diocese and A Church Near You have both kindly provided information on existing Church of England churches, this will form the core of a database of sites to visit -there are over 400 churches in Gloucestershire, although some are relatively modern, whilst others are redundant and not on these lists. Luckily we are starting with just the eastern part of the county, as covered in the 'Cotswolds' volume of the Buildings of England Series which has about half that number of churches. To this list will be added museums, archive stores and former monastic houses, all of which will need to be checked and potentially visited.
This core list of potential sites is being cross-referenced to information on known cross-slabs; these include those listed in the Buildings of England volumes, noted on Gloucestershire County Council's Historic Environment Record, and those recorded by various antiquarians and scholars. Part of the project will collate all past observations of cross-slabs since the Victorian period, many of which have since been lost or destroyed. Through this work we will obtain a more accurate picture of the rate of loss of these vulnerable monuments.
It is not just antiquarian records that will need checking for records of cross-slabs; recent excavation work by Cotswold Archaeology in St John the Baptist Cirencester unearthed several cross-slabs built into the church footings. These are now reburied beneath the floor, but will be drawn up from the excavation records and added to the corpus of visible cross-slabs from this wonderful church.
|Cross-slabs from archaeological excavations at St John the Baptist, Cirencester|
Aleksandra McClain of the Cross Slab in Northern England Survey has kindly provided a copy of their database structure which we will tweak to suit Gloucestershire. Using this database will mean that all the data is recorded and collated along the same lines as the surveys of Peter Ryder which cover much of the north of England.
To help us with the on-site recording we have created a set of draft pro forma record sheets, and will be testing these out over the next few weeks, making sure that they work in the real world! With all this in place we will be able to get started on the recording work...