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he promptly visited the stone, and having copied the inscription, sent his copy to Professor Stephens, of Copenhagen, who corrected some of the readings, and referred Father Dallow to Professor G. F. Browne, Disney Professor of Archaeology in the University of Cambridge. The illustration opposite shows the present appearance of the stone and inscription. On the edge at the narrow end of the stone there is rudely incised a Romanesque arch. This," as Professor Browne says,3 "is very fortunate, for it determines the original position of the stone. It was a recumbent, not a standing stone, with interlaced serpents on the surface, a rude arcade cut on the vertical edge at the head, and an inscription in runes cut on the vertical edge at the side. This would be on the south side, if the body which it covered was laid facing the east. Presumably, large stones were laid on the surface of the ground, over the grave, on which this body stone was in turn laid, so that it should not sink into the earth. Even so, the vertical edge of a flat stone was not a very permanent place for an inscription, and I do not remember any other runic inscription in Great Britain in that position.
"The inscription is in two lines, one above the other, an incised line dividing the two. Both lines are broken off at the right hand, and the two runes at the left hand of the lower line are defaced. The rest is very legible. The runecutter began with large letters well spaced, but when he came to the second line he had to squeeze his letters, getting nineteen into the space occupied by fifteen in the upper line." The present size of the stone is 21 inches long, by 10 inches wide at one end and 5 at the other, and it is g inches thick. It is the only stone with a runic inscription yet found in Wirral.
3 Archaological Journal, xlvi, 397.
Professor Browne reads and translates the inscription as follows :—
Folce [people, or kindred] Areardon [erected] Becun [a gravestone] Gebiddath [bid ye, or pray
ye] Fote [or, Fore for] Aethelmund. The whole
reading, "The people raised a memorial. Pray "for ^Ethelmund." The letters underlined are supplied, and would appear where the inscription is broken off and damaged. The name Athelmund is a rare one, and occurs only twice in the Saxon Chronicle and in Lingard's History of England. It is said to signify " Royal Peace."
I have now to notice some details of the Stone, on which Father Dallow has not dwelt. First, the absolutely perfect and unworn condition of the inscription, which, judging from its condition, has never been exposed to the weather; the inference being that it was set in the interior of some building, probably the original Saxon church. In the next place, a curious kind of greasy glaze is found on this surface, which does not enter the groovings of the letters. It is just such an appearance as stone presents when subjected to the frequent touch of the human hand or skin, and is most apparent on that portion of the stone containing the name Athelmund. It strongly suggests that the stone was a kind of shrine, and the memory of Athelmund was held in reverence, and it may be that this shrine was kissed, or touched, by those who resorted to it, and who made it the Biddan Stone, or Stone of Prayer. When the Norman church was built, the inscription was bedded in the wall, probably face downwards, and the other side of the stone roughly dressed to fit it to the level course in the building. The upper side was turned
outwards, and showed its sculptured surface in the outer wall, where this face became greatly worn and weathered, its condition differing much in this respect from that of the inscription. Mr. Webster says the mortar was on the inscribed face. We have, apparently, fully two-thirds of the original stone in length, the inscribed front and upper side being as the Saxon mason cut them, one end and the reverse of the inscription having been hacked away. The stone may have stood on some kind of base, but was never part of a Cross. It is nearly complete as a monument, and closely resembles one found near Newcastle-on-Tyne. My own impression is that such memorial stones are reduced and feeble imitations of ornamental Roman sarcophagi or shrines.
As to the date of the inscription, the only suggestions that I can make arise from the wellknown fact that Cheshire was one of the last parts of England occupied by the Saxons. Ethelfrith destroyed Chester A.d. 603, and it cannot be of an earlier date than this. But, some time after this, we have notices of certain British kings, or chiefs occupying the ruins of Chester; so, evidently, there was no immediate colonization by the Saxons. Not till the time of Ethelfleda, when Chester was rebuilt, in the tenth century, to withstand the incursions of the Danes, do the Saxons seem to have got firmly established here. It is well known that the policy of exterminating the Britons did not obtain in Cheshire, if it did elsewhere, at Saxon hands. We may, I think, take this memorial to date from the later Saxon times, both from the circumstances of the country and its style of sculpture, which verges on the Norman. Certainly, to my mind, it has none of the delicacy of design that distinguishes Celtic work.