The "Hogback" stone is of Anglo-Norse origin, and dates from the early eleventh century and is of Norse origin. It
represents evidence of Christian burial and Viking settlements across the WIrral Peninsula up to the 1st Millenia.
Documentary evidence is limited, but it seems likely that the Norsemen arrived in Wirral (and elsewhere on the
north-western seaboard) from Ireland in the tenth century. Their arrival was primarily for settlement rather than
military occupation, and there seems to have been a gradual conversion to the Christian faith. Indeed, many of
those arriving seem already to have been Christian, hence the dedication of the church to St Bridget, Abbess of
Kildare. The Norse settlers have left their mark on this area not only in the "-by" ending of many place-names, but
in the sculptural tradition of crosses and stones, including our own "Hogback" Stone. The stone was discovered
during the restoration of St Bridgets Church in 1869-1870, traditionally having been unearthed on the site now
covered by the aisle in which it stands.
It was originally preserved in the Charles Dawson Brown Museum adjacent to the former Schoolroom. Its recent
transfer into the church is paralleled by the display of similar stones in other churches (eg.Gosforth and Aspatria in
Cumbria). There remain in the Museum a number of examples of Cross fragments from the same period as the
stone, as well as artifacts of a later date. A visit to the Museum can be arranged by contacting the Custodian, Mr
Rod Tann on 0151-625-1234 or the Rector on 0151-625-5229. The stone is carved from a hard, grey, sandstone,
not of the local variety. A similar stone is found in the district of Ruabon, near Wrexham North Wales, although
some have argued for a Yorkshire origin. It is similar to other stones found in the north west of England, north
Yorkshire, and southern Scotland. The popular generic description "Hogback" relates to the curving top of the
stone, although the West Kirby example has been damaged in this area. However, the likely origin of this style is
in imitation of Saxon stone shrines (eg."Hedda's Tomb" in Peterborough Cathedral), which are themselves inspired
by the gabled tombs of the christian Mediterranean world. T
he "Hogback" sculptors also imitated contemporary buildings, hence the curved roof, and often also curved sides,
giving to some stones a "boat" shape. Many Hogback stones imitate a tiled roof, but on this example the tiles
have become so stylised as to resemble large tear drops. The decoration on the side of the stone is a late
example of an interlace or "plait" which can be found on much sculpture, Anglo-Norse and Celtic. The "cart-wheel"
pattern found above the tiles is unusual, but is similar to designs on a cross on the Isle of Man. The quality of
carving is not of the highest order, notice how the sculptor has failed to join up the interlace work. He has also
carved against the "grain" of the stone, so that exposure to rain, frost and ice has caused the damage to the top
portion. As well as the damage to the top of the stone, it seems that at some later stage in its history the ends of
the stone have been lost, perhaps deliberately cut off, perhaps so that the stone could be used as a lintel or in a
wall. All the surviving "Hogback" stones have been found within parish churchyards and scholarly opinion is that
they served as markers for the burial place of important members of the Norse community, some stones perhaps
being combined with head and foot stones, and even with standing Crosses.