The Staffordshire Hoard and Anglo-Saxon England

'The Staffordshire Hoard' by Roger Bland and Kevin Leahy

Front Cover (Amazon)
Front Cover (Amazon)

Anglo-Saxon Hoard?


The 'Staffordshire Hoard' is a collection of hundreds of beautiful Anglo-Saxon gold items ~ almost 4,000 in fact ~ often decorated with garnets.

The items probably date to the 7th or 8th century

There are military pieces, religious artefacts and items of jewelry.

For some reason they were hidden ~ buried in Staffordshire ~ and there they lay, undiscovered, for hundreds of years.

Then, one day in the year 2009, a man with a metal detector unearthed them, in a field, near Lichfield.

*

Staffordshire is in the English Midlands, and belonged, once, to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

Tamworth in Staffordshire was ancient the Mercian capital.

*

Staffordshire Hoard: Early Medieval Cross - Folded

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sword_staffs.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sword_staffs.jpg | Source

Anglo-Saxon England, Sutton Hoo and the Staffordshire Hoard

I am fascinated by the Anglo-Saxon period of English history ~ and I think that this fascination is due, in part at least, to the enthusiasm of one of my tutors ~ Margaret Gelling.

I first met Margaret Gelling, when I attended her course on the history of English place-names, as an under-graduate, at Birmingham University, in 1985. (Most English place-names ~ including the word 'England' ~ are Anglo-Saxon in origin.)

Fast forward about 15 years and I joined another Margaret Gelling course (extra-mural from Birmingham University). This one concentrated on Anglo-Saxon art, including the amazing discoveries at Sutton Hoo.

(Books on these subjects will be available to borrow from libraries, and to buy online or in bookshops.)

Staffordshire Hoard: Anglo-Saxon Sheet Gold Artwork

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sheet_Gold_Plaque,_Staffordshire_Hoard.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sheet_Gold_Plaque,_Staffordshire_Hoard.jpg | Source

Angles and Saxons in Britain in Roman Times

There were Angles and Saxons in Britain during Roman times, but the great influx came after the Romans left the islands, in 410 AD. How many came, and how violent their arrival was, is still being investigated, but at least two things are certain; they gave England her language and they produced intricate and delightful artwork. Anglo-Saxon archaeological finds, of great beauty, have been discovered. These include wonderfully ornate pieces in gold and garnet.

One renowned Anglo-Saxon burial site, where a hoard of such finery has been found, is Sutton Hoo. The finesse of the treasure discovered indicated that this was the grave of a high status individual, and it has now been concluded that this was the final resting place of King Raedwald of East Anglia ~ this, of course, being the Kingdom of the Angles of the East of the land.


Staffordshire Hoard: Buckle and Pommel Caps

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staffordshire_Hoard_Pommel_Caps.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staffordshire_Hoard_Pommel_Caps.jpg | Source

Anglo-Saxon Origins

The Anglo-Saxons came from the North-West of mainland Europe (part of modern-day Germany) so it is not surprising that they should settle in the East of Britain. However, East Anglia was not the only kingdom. Most of England came under Anglo-Saxon leadership (England ~ not Wales or Scotland) and other kingdoms included the large and important kingdom of Mercia, with its capital at Tamworth. Some lovely pieces had been found in the Midlands, but nothing as important as those at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and certainly no cache of royal Mercian jewels.

Mrs Gelling felt sure that such a treasure must exist somewhere in central England and she would ponder, with her students, when and whether it would ever be found.

Staffordshire Hoard: Selection of Objects

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staffordshire_hoard_annotated.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staffordshire_hoard_annotated.jpg | Source

Anglo Saxon Art - Viewing the Delights!

When my Mum phoned, last year, to tell me that a fabulous hoard of 7th-century Anglo Saxon riches had been discovered in Staffordshire, I felt very emotional. (The discovery was made by a man using a metal detector.) The mysterious lost treasure had finally been found. I was very sad to learn that Mrs Gelling had died on 24th April 2009, just a few weeks before the discovery, on 5th July.

Mum told me that the jewellery would be on display, the very next day, at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Thousands went to view the impressive display ~ far more than expected ~ and we were amongst them. It was a wonderful and awe-inspiring experience. Light was being cast over the dark ages ~ a misnomer, if ever there was one. Mrs Gelling would have loved it, I'm absolutely sure.

I cannot describe the delights that we saw; I can only describe my pleasure and pride at seeing them.

To see some of the exhibits for yourselves, please go to the official site, where there are over 650 Photographs:

http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/

Also the Birmingham University site is interesting:

http://www.barch.bham.ac.uk/projects/staffordshirehoard.html

This is a book, from The British Museum, on the 'Staffordshire Hoard':

'Staffordshire Hoard' ~ Kevin Leahy and Roger Bland (From the British Museum)

Staffordshire Hoard: Anglo Saxon Hilt Fitting

Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon Hoard - Hilt Fitting - Finds number NLM 449 - This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. _ http://en.wiki
Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon Hoard - Hilt Fitting - Finds number NLM 449 - This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. _ http://en.wiki | Source

Books

'Staffordshire Hoard' by Kevin Leahy and Roger Bland (From the British Museum)

This is a book, from The British Museum.

*

Books relating to Sutton Hoo and Anglo-Saxon Suffolk, and to Wasperton, can be found in the Amazon listing, below.

Other interesting works include:

Anglo-Saxon England (Volume 22) by Michael Lapidge, Malcolm Godden, and Simon Keynes

The Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England: Basic Readings (Basic Readings in Anglo-Saxon England) by Catherine E. Karkov

West Stow, the Anglo-Saxon village (East Anglia archaeology) by Stanley E West

An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms by C. J. Arnold

Staffordshire Hoard: Part of a helmet

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fragments_from_a_helmet_%28Staffordshire_Hoard%29.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fragments_from_a_helmet_%28Staffordshire_Hoard%29.jpg | Source
Signposts to the Past - Margaret Gelling PhD
Signposts to the Past - Margaret Gelling PhD
Margaret Gelling OBE 1924 - 2009.. Photo accessed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:M_gelling_1965.png
Margaret Gelling OBE 1924 - 2009.. Photo accessed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:M_gelling_1965.png

Some books by Margaret Gelling:

Signposts to the Past: Place Names and the History of England by Margaret Gelling

Place-Names in the Landscape: The Geographical Roots of Britain's Place-Names by Margaret Gelling

The names of towns and cities in Britain, by Margaret Gelling

The West Midlands in the Early Middle Ages (Studies in the Early History of Britain) by Margaret Gelling

Discovering Place-Names: A Pocket Guide to about 1500 Place-names in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales by John Field and Margaret Gelling

The Landscape of Place-names by Margaret Gelling and Ann Cole

The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names: Based on the Collections of the English Place-Name Society by Victor Watts, John Insley, and Margaret Gelling

*

Some of these books may be out of print, or rare and expensive, but they may be available to view in libraries.

*

There are various sites on the Internet which you may wish to seek out, if you find this subject interesting. Also there are a number of books, which you might wish to beg, borrow or buy. I have noted some of those that I have found on Amazon.

I hope that I have made no errors, and apologise if I have.

'The Staffordshire Hoard' By Roger Bland and Kevin Leahy

Book Covers (Amazon)
Book Covers (Amazon)

'The Largest Hoard'

Book Cover: 'The Staffordshire Hoard' By Roger Bland and Kevin Leahy. (Amazon)
Book Cover: 'The Staffordshire Hoard' By Roger Bland and Kevin Leahy. (Amazon)

Staffordshire Hoard

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sheet_Gold_Plaque,_Staffordshire_Hoard.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sheet_Gold_Plaque,_Staffordshire_Hoard.jpg | Source

Staffordshire Hoard

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staffordshire_Hoard_Pommel_Caps.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staffordshire_Hoard_Pommel_Caps.jpg | Source

Update Mar 20th 2010 - Saved for the Midlands!

According to Neil Elkes, of the Birmingham Mail, the 'Staffordshire Hoard' is to remain in the English Midlands. This a a victory for all those locals who have contributed to the fund to keep Mercian Anglo-Saxon treasure in 'Mercia'. It has been supplemented with a lottery grant. Brilliant!

The Birmingham Mail article is here:

http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2010/03/20/victory-in-battle-to-keep-staffordshire-hoard-in-midlands-97319-26071361/

Staffordshire Hoard

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staffordshire_hoard_annotated.jpg
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Staffordshire_hoard_annotated.jpg | Source

Staffordshire, England

Comments 20 comments

Treasured Pasts profile image

Treasured Pasts 6 years ago from Commerce, Texas

I wish I could have seen them through your eyes. Pictures are nice but they never quite catch the true beauty and nature of the intricities and detail of the artwork. Maybe on the next trip to England.

Stuart

Treasured Pasts


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Stuart.

Oh, yes, they were truly amazing. I feel very privileged to have seen them.

Hopefully, enough money will be raised for them to remain in the UK ~ specifically the Midlands ~ in Stoke and Birmingham museums.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

NICE TO MEET YOU Trish-M.really enjoyed this hub. Thank you for sharing it with us.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Thank you for your kind words, D.A.L. :)


fen lander profile image

fen lander 6 years ago from Whitstable

I'm fascinated by the Anglo Saxons and their forgotten/hidden/concealed culture. That was a very interesting bit of writing, Trish. There's quite a lot of linguistic/lexicographical/archaeological evidence though, that suggests the Anglo Saxon language was spoken here before the Roman incursion/invasion. In all liklihood, the place-names existed pre-Roman too. Read Stephen Openheimer's The Origins Of The English- he makes a very good case.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Fen lander. :)

That's interesting. I enjoy reading his theories, so I'll take a look.

Actually, Francis Pryor presented some ideas related to this in a TV documentary I saw recently. I'll have a look at his book on Medieval England, too, since I have it beside me :)

I, too, find the Anglo-Saxons very interesting.

Thanks for your comment :)


Elissa Midgley 6 years ago

Dear Trish, it was really touching to read your comments about my aunt, Margaret Gelling. I worked on a broadcast piece for TV News about the discovery of the hoard the day it was announced, and had the same feeling that Margaret would have been thrilled by the find. Best wishes, Elissa


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Elissa :)

Thank you so much for your very moving response.

Your aunt was a very inspiring teacher!

I have written some items, on here, about place-names and, when I was teaching, I think that I managed to get a few others interested in the subject too! I hope so.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 4 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

I recently viewed part of the Staffordshire Hoard at Birmingham Museum. It's well worth a side trip. In 2012 some of the pieces are on display at a museum in Washington DC.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi to the 2 Patricias from another Patricia :)

Yes, the pieces are well worth seeing. I didn't know that some would be travelling to the USA. It's good that the knowledge will be shared.


Brett Osteen profile image

Brett Osteen 4 years ago

Good stuff. The Anglo Saxons are always interesting to read about.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Brett :)

Thanks!

Yes, I agree ~ a fascinating bunch :)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 18 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

Hello Trish M. Interesting piece here. There is an element of inter-kingdom strife in the story behind the Staffordshire Hoard.

Briefly, Penda was king of Mercia in the 7th C at the time Oswald was king in Northumbria beyond the Humber/Mersey line. Oswald and his brother Oswy had been converted during exile in Sin Scotland, and Penda still followed his pagan beliefs. Oswald made the mistake of attacking Mercia, going far beyond the boundary near the Dee and was killed by Penda in Shropshire. With Welsh and Gaelic allies Penda then invaded Northumbria, getting as far north as Bamburgh.

Oswy offered a 'sop', treasure from Bamburgh and Penda shared it out with his allies who then set off 'toot sweet' for home, leaving the still overloaded Penda at Winwaed (near present day Leeds) within Northumbria. They were the wrong side of the river with Oswy


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 18 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Thank you, Alan, for this interesting background information. I have watched some documentaries about the hoard and find the subject endlessly fascinating. I shall have to go and take another look at the items now that there is a special long-term exhibition.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 18 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

(Excuse the break, something triggered 'post')... continued/

...They were the wrong side of the river with Oswy hot on their heels when Penda was slain along with a greater part of his army, trying to cross after heavy rainfall to safety. Some achieved the far bank with part of the haul, to be chased across western Mercia as far as the Tamworth area where the treasure was buried for safekeeping. Whether they escaped the Northumbrians or whether they too were cut down before their haul could be retrieved is not known.

Many of the items would have been made with gold mined beyond the Forth at a time when Bernicia (northern Northumbria) stretched to Dinas Eidin (Edinburgh), crafted by the Picts, some Northumbrian, such as the heraldic weaponry and helmet parts and some from further afield gained by trade.

Penda was succeeded by son Peada, who converted to Christianity and ruled Mercia as sub-king under the overlordship of Oswy of Northumbria. To atone for the killings Oswy endowed his sister Hilda with an abbey at Streoneshealh (later Whitby).


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 18 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Very interesting, Alan. Thank you! I hadn't heard about this. Is it a theory or is it definite? I'm always keen to know more about what was going on in 'Anglo-Saxon' England. Can you recommend any background reading? :)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 18 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

Trish, help is at hand:

www.englandsnortheast.co.uk/KingdomofNorthumbria.html will point you in the right direction, look for Oswy/Oswiu and Oswald. Through the manner of his death in Penda's hands in Shropshire Oswald was canonised. Details of this are on Wikipedia under Oswald, as are also further details about the battles of Maeserfeld where Oswald was defeated and later killed. Winwaed is covered separately and under Oswy.

Mercia was known first as Middil Aengla when the Aengle/Angles first came to Britain, then only on the east coast between the Humber and the Wash; after expansion inland before and around Penda's time the territory became Myrca or Mierca (different sources, different names) and stretched down toward the Seoferna/Severn to absorb the Celtic kingdom of Hwicce (pron. 'Hwiche', where Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire meet and where we get the modern word 'witch'). Another area absorbed by Mercia in this region was Maegonsaete (pron. 'Mayonsette')


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 18 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Thanks, Alan. I'll have a look at those items :)

Yes, I remember Mrs Gelling and my other university lecturers talking about the Maegonsaete and the Hwicce.

I think I live in the Hwicce, actually :)

I was wondering specifically about the Staffordshire hoard definitely being the same treasure as mentioned in your story.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 18 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

Think of the timeline, Trish. Think of the age of the finds, some early Byzantine, some Celtic and some early Northumbrian. Think, why would Mercians want to bury treasure? Tamworth, now at the heart of modern England is a long way inland. There was no sea- and riverborne enemy like the Danes to contend with until the 9th Century, (and in any case that side of Mercia was under the control of Wessex in Aelfred's time, in the care of his son-in-law ealdorman Aethelred).

So there you have it. Read what the museum people say about the era they think the treasures were buried, and the authors of the book about the hoard, Roger Bland and Kevin Leahy.

And read what Michael Wood has to say. It all ties in.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 18 months ago from The English Midlands Author

Thanks Alan. I have the Bland Leahy book but I hadn't seen Michael Wood's contribution before. Goodness knows how I missed it. He is one of my favourite authors and presenters. Great!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Staffordshire Hoard:

    More by this Author


    Click to Rate This Article
    working