Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The Staffordshire Hoard

Last November the Mail Online had a major article with fine illustrations about what is now known as the Staffordshire Hoard. Dated to the first half of the seventh century this great array of gold, silver and jewellery pieces was found by a man with a metal detector in a field near Lichfield in 2009. That was the heartland of Mercia, and the treasure has been linked to the pagan King Penda, very much the villan in killed in Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History”, and who was killed in battle in 655. As Penda appears to have accepted Christians amongst his own family historians today are inclined to interpret the conflict between Mercia and Northumbria as being political rather than relgious, the quest for hegemony rather than for Heaven.

The spectacular finds reveal more of the wealth and sophisticated culture of the warrior elite and of the Church in the era we have come to know through the prism not only of Bede and his contemporaries but also of the treasures found at Sutton Hoo in 1939. 

These and similar discoveries enable us to expand our understanding of the period and to realise that it should most certainly not be dismissed as “The Dark Ages” or in similarly perjorative terms. Here was a rich material culture, a rich literary culture - think of Bede and of Beowulf - and a rich spiritual culture, if not for King Penda then for his descendants and their subjects. 

The two articles with their illustrations are 

Anglo-Saxon artefacts hoard hailed 'one of the greatest' British finds

from 2019 and 

How jobless treasure hunter unearthed greatest ever haul of Saxon artefacts with £2.50 metal detector

from the time of the first discovery in 2009.

Items from the Staffordshire Hoard are on display in the Birmingham City Museum and the Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent.

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