Archive for the ‘Anglo-Saxon History’ Category

Textus Roffensis. Photo by Keith

Textus Roffensis. Photo by Keith

When Keith and I recently visited Rochester Cathedral we took the opportunity to visit the exhibition space in the crypt. This traces the history of the Cathedral through items from its collection.

Head of a medieval Bishop's crozier. Photo by Keith

Head of a medieval Bishop’s crozier. Photo by Keith

Reliquary.  Photo by Keith

Reliquary. Photo by Keith

The centre of the exhibition is a copy of the Textus Roffensis (The Book of Rochester).

Textus Roffensis. Photo by Keith

Textus Roffensis. Photo by Keith

The Textus Roffensis is a codex of books probably written from around 1120 AD and bound together in the 14th century. It was written by a monk at Rochester in a local ‘font’ known as Rochester Prickly. It is in two languages Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Latin. Part of the codex contains the only existing copy of King Ethelbert of Kent’s code of Laws, which originated from around 600 AD. It also comprises a copy of the Coronation Charter of Henry I, used by the Barons as a template when composing the Magna Carta. Other items include documents relating to land holdings of the Cathedral and other legal documents. Together they seem to comprise a reference book to be used in legal disputes involving the rights and holdings of the Cathedral.

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After the departure of the Romans the area within the city walls was deserted, the Anglo-Saxons preferring to settle around the area we know today as the Strand to the east. It was not until the later anglo-Saxon or early medieval times that much was built within the old Roman city. It is believed that a religious community was established within the walls in the 7th century. This would later become St Paul’s Cathedral and this may have begun a return to occupation within the walled area.

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It was not until the Medieval period that the wall was rebuilt as a defensive screen. The walls were repaired, strengthen and crenellated. In addition more gates were added.

The only surviving Medieval gate tower in London's wall (Tower Hill)

The only surviving Medieval gate tower in London’s wall (Tower Hill)

The moat was filled in during the 16th century and during the 17th and 18th centuries much of the remaining wall was either demolished or incorporated into new brick buildings.

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Many of the London names come from the wall. There are place named after gates, for example Aldgate and Newgate, and those named after the ditch, eg Shoreditch and Houndsditch. In the 1960 when the northern area of the city was redeveloped the major artery road was called London Wall, as for much of its line it follows the line of the old city wall.

Close up of folded gold cross
Folded golden Cross
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

A long lunch break during a meeting in Birmingham last Saturday enabled me to visit the new gallery at the Birmingham Museum dedicated to the Staffordshire Hoard.

Part of the hoard in situ
Part of the hoard insitu
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Staffs cross
Photo by Gordon Tour (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gordontour/)

This is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon Gold and silver metalwork ever discovered. It was found in a field near Lichfield in 2009 and consists of over 3,500 items, 5kg of Gold, 1.5 Kg of Silver and 3,500 garnets. All of the items are male decoration and many are of a military use including pommel caps and hilt plates.

Sword pommel
Sword Pommell
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Assemblage of sword fittings
Sword Fittings
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Sword pommel
Decorated Sword Fitting
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

It dates from 7th or 8th century Mercia, the kingdom which occupied much of Central England and which was at the peak of its power at that time. It seems unlikely to be loot due to the nature of the items and the high quality of workmanship throughout all the items. It could be a collection of trophies although some have suggested it could be a ransom hoard.

Millefiori stud
A stud
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Gold zoomorphic plate
Gold plate
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Gold ring
Gold ring
Photo from Portable Antiquities scheme (https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/)

Why it was buried is also a mystery. It was probably hidden for safe-keeping but the depositor then failed to come back to reclaim it.

A magnificent collection