Find of the Month – May 2021

This month I’ve been back meeting finders for the first time since late 2020 and some very interesting finds have been brought in for identification and recording. A fair few finds have been brought in but so recently I haven’t had much time to put this one together. However, there is one find which really stands out.

It is this complete Colchester derivative Harlow type brooch, found on The Ridgeway, which very rarely survive this complete. The patina on the bow is quite different from the spring and it doesn’t sit very well in the head. It could possibly be a replacement for a broken pin.

Photo by the author

It is difficult to tell without a material analysis and even then we don’t know whether the same alloy was used for both the bow and pin when it was originally made. Perhaps the spring was made from a cheaper alloy so more good material could be used for the bow.

These chunky brooches were ones called ‘dolphin’ brooches. However, the name we use for them now is Colchester Derivative, looking like Colchester type brooches but having chunkier proportions. The three main types are the Rearhook, Harlow and Polden Hill

The Rearhook s defined as having a spring held in place by a rear-facing hook. This method of holding the spring was flimsy and was often modified, presumably after a break or failure. Solder was often used for repair or reinforcement. Rearhooks are often quite highly decorated.

SF-8F9B42 Rights Holder: Suffolk County Council
CC License

The Harlow, as the one I received recently,  has wings which are semi-cylindrical and open at the reverse. In the centre is a plate (usually called a ‘lug’) pierced with two holes, the upper one to hold the chord and the lower one to hold the axis bar. The lug is usually shaped around the holes, so is sometimes considered as two lugs, one above the other. The line of the lug often continues over the head and down onto the bow as a central crest, reminiscent of the forward-facing hook of the Colchester.

BUC-401B71 Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License

The Polden Hill is defined by having the axis bar held at each end. This is normally by means of a pierced circular plate at the outer end of each wing (often called ‘wing caps’), but there is also a group of brooches (Mackreth’s ‘Eastern Group’, CD PH 6), where the wing ends are formed into short cylinders. Fixing the axis bar, spring and pin in this way was more secure than the other Colchester Derivative methods.

BERK-830663 Rights Holder: The British Museum CC License
CC License

There are multiple variations on the theme and these are also split into multiple subtypes.

You can read more about all the types of brooches we record here