The Stone Head Mystery
5th May 2021
The Collections Team are currently investigating a mystery stone head in the collections at Experience Barnsley. This was found on the grounds of Holyrood Catholic Church, Barnsley. The team are checking against an archive made in the 1960s by Sidney Jackson who documented a great number of ancient stone heads and with colleagues from across the museum sector with similar examples in their collections.
Most curators have responded that they think it is extremely old and could indeed be a Celtic head, which has a purposeful primitive angular style. These ancient and mysterious heads were often taken and added to churches, bridges and other buildings in the 1700s and 1800s after a fashion for the art of the first peoples of the UK. Another suggestion was that it was medieval as the angular style is reminiscent of stone carvings in nearby Pontefract around a hermit’s cave for example.
Stone heads are very difficult to date, so be this a Celtic head, medieval, or just a very weather worn gargoyle from the 1800s that someone has chiselled over, we just don’t know yet. This demonstrates the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes with our wonderful objects. The continued support of Barnsley Museums and Heritage Trust with funding applications and the conservation fund really helps with our collections work.
We will be displaying the head and our findings to date in a small, new archaeology case for the reopening of Experience Barnsley – so please come and see him or her, to say hello to the people who walked this land before us.