Staffordshire Hoard finally makes it to Sutton Hoo after two-year wait

The Staffordshire Hoard,

Part of the Staffordshire Hoard, which is the largest find of Anglo Saxon gold, is being exhibited at Sutton Hoo. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Two years after they were due to go on show in Suffolk, prize exhibits from largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found has gone on display at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge.

More than 4,000 Anglo-Saxon items were found in a field near Litchfield in 2009 and the Staffordshire Hoard gave historians and archaeologists a new insight into the life in Seventh Century England.

Now some of those items have gone on show at Sutton Hoo until the end of October - and there is believed to be a close connection with much of the treasure unearthed at the Suffolk site from 1939.

The Staffordshire Hoard is thought to have been buried in about 650 - about 25 years after King Raedwald was buried in his ship at Sutton Hoo.

Staffordshire Hoard fittings

Gold and garnet seax fittings discovered in the Staffordshire Hoard - Credit: Robin Pattinson/National Trust

At that time England did not exist as a single identity - it was a series of smaller kingdoms like East Anglia and Mercia, where the Staffordshire Hoard was found.

However, some of the intricately-made jewellery found at the sites had such similar patterns that experts believe they must have been made by the same person, or workshop, in East Anglia which was the trading hub between many of the English kingdoms and the continent.

Laura Howarth, Sutton Hoo's archaeology manager said some of the garnet stones on show were originally decorations on swords - and some are believed to have originated in India and Sri Lanka - showing the extent of trade in what is now considered the "Dark Ages."

Laura Howarth

Laura Howarth outside the exhibition hall at Sutton Hoo. - Credit: Laura Howarth

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Other pieces were originally on smaller knives, which were known as a Seax.

She said: “Every object tells a story. Some chapters of each story may be lost to us today, but it is fascinating to wonder and imagine this golden and garnet-adorned age.”

Staffordshire

Some of the items on show demonstrate extraordinary craftsmanship for the seventh century. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The National Trust hopes that the exhibition, Swords of Kingdoms, will give Sutton Hoo another big boost after last year's "The Dig" effect which attracted many visitors who had seen the Netflix film about the discovery of the ship and Basil Brown's tussles with university academics.

Last year the Trust had hoped to attract 100,000 visitors but in the event 130,000 came to the site. Now visitors have to book in advance - and will need timed tickets to see the Staffordshire Hoard because it is in a comparatively small room.

National Trust members also have to book - but will not have to pay extra to see the exhibition.

The exhibition is supported by the New Anglia LEP and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It includes 60 individual items on loan from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, the British Museum and the Norwich Castle Museum.

Sutton Hoo Jewels

The discovery of these jewels showed archaeologists in 1939 how important the Sutton Hoo discovery was - they are on loan from the British Musuem. - Credit: O&R Photography/National Trust

Among the items on show from the British Museum are the gold and garnet details from swords found at Sutton Hoo by Peggy Piggott which showed this was an important site and not just a ship burial. They have returned to Suffolk for the first time in many years.

Laura Howarth said: “Although some of the objects on display now bear their own ‘battle scars’ of damage inflicted during systematic object dismantling in the seventh century or from lying buried over centuries, others glitter as if freshly forged.

"The intricacy, complexity of design and skill of the Anglo-Saxons goldsmiths is truly breath-taking and this is such a special and significant occasion to be able to see some of their finest work on display at Sutton Hoo.”