The Hickling Hogback
The Hickling hogback is a type of Anglo-Scandinavian grave cover in St Luke’s Church, Hickling, Nottinghamshire. It is the most southerly grave cover of this type in England. It appears to have been carved from the remains of a Roman column, hence the notch in the end of it. The stone features Scandinavian Jelling-style decoration indicating an expression of Scandinavian identity and muzzled bears on each end which are thought to be indicators of a pagan identity. However, the stone also features a large cross showing that the commissioners of the carving had a strong interest in expressing the Christian identity of the deceased. As such, this stone is designed to show that the person buried under it was a Christian Scandinavian.
Hickling, in the Bingham Wapentake of Nottinghamshire, has a name that was given probably quite early in Anglo-Saxon times in Old English. It is also recorded relatively early, first in a 14th-century copy of a document originally written around 1000. The -ing suffix indicates that the name refers to a group of people, who belonged to or were named after a person called Hicel(a). It is therefore not a Viking name. However, it is included here because St Luke’s Church in Hickling is the location of an early medieval grave-cover that is often regarded as a ‘hogback’ a type of Anglo-Scandinavian monument generally found further north (indeed this would be the most southerly example). It is quite common for sculpture with Scandinavian features or showing Scandinavian influence to be found in villages with English names, and this applies to other forms of material culture too. There is therefore no automatic connection between the name of a place and other evidence for Scandinavian influence, and this raises many interesting questions about the processes of acculturation, integration and diaspora that resulted from the Viking invasions.
St Alkmund’s Hogback Grave Marker (1996-60-5)
A stone hogback grave marker from St Alkmund’s Church, Derby. The site of St Alkmund’s Church is thought to have been on one of the oldest Christian sites in the area. Excavations on the site have shown that the church was in existence before the ninth century and that the presence of the Great Army in the ninth century seems to have led to a period of neglect and decay, before it was restored following the reconquest of the Danelaw in the tenth century or early eleventh century. Only about half of this hogback grave cover survives. It has the typical bear at the gable end, although the carving is damaged, and an interlaced serpent design within the panels on the side. It is typical of this type of grave cover which is found throughout northern England and into Scotland. They occur in Viking-dominated areas of the country, and appear to be an Anglo-Scandinavian tradition combining elements of pre-Christian and Christian iconography.
Details from the Hickling Hogback
Detail drawings showing elements of the designs on the hogback stone, a type of Anglo-Scandinavian grave cover, from St Luke’s Church, Hickling, Nottinghamshire.