Very rare Carolingian trefoil mount from Leicestershire

When I was first shown this object, LEIC-C5F14Athe shape suggested the Viking age, but the decoration didn’t seem to fit. Enamelling is not what springs to mind on these trefoil mounts, which are usually gilded or plain bronze. Luckily I showed an image to Dr Barry Ager at the British Museum.

He informed me that the glass inlay was unusual though it did have a parallel with a fragmentary trefoil mount, probably from a sword-belt, having been found at Maastricht-Amby in the Netherlands.

It is thought that this may be the only complete example known, it is certainly the first of its type found in England.

The trefoil mounts are of continental origin and broadly dateable to the 9th century. It is a moot point whether they were brought into this country in connection with Viking activity, or were imported directly from France and/or the Low Countries.

Either way, this object is stunning and is a valuable addition to the corpus of Early Medieval finds in the county.

Anglo-Viking coinage

As an Archaeologist based in Leicestershire who’s interested in coins and Viking age England, I had been a little disappointed that in 13 years as an FLO I had only recorded one Anglo-Viking coin (see LEIC-B230B8).
That changed late last year when I was shown a St Edmund memorial penny, minted in East Anglia by Vikings c. 895-910AD. The coins feature the often blundered inscription ‘SC EDMUND’ a dedication to the saint who was, ironically, martyred by the Vikings. I told the finder how rare his coin was and that he’d made my year (see LEIC-19C0DA ) .

leic-19c0da

But it turns out that these coins are like buses and within weeks I was shown another (see LEIC-B7F405). By this April I had the hat trick, with a third being found in the same district as the first (see LEIC-4FC58C).

leic-b7f405leic-4fc58c

Nationally the PAS has only recorded 34. Most were single finds from within the Danelaw, with one outlier from a hoard in Cumbria. The majority were lost within East Anglia, with a few in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Staffordshire.
These coins add an important layer of evidence in a county that was in the Danelaw, but which has not yielded too much solid evidence for Scandinavian settlers. They add much weight to the counties artefacts and place names that reflect an Anglo-Scandinavian character, but whose reliability as evidence for settlers is hotly debated. Because these coins were only used by people who accepted them, either for their bullion value or because they were Scandinavian issues, this points directly to Scandinavians living in Leicestershire.

Names from the Past

A recent Treasure acquisition for Leicestershire Museums is a very rare ‘Nummular’ brooch WMID-B1C4E3 found in the Hinckley area. These date to the late early medieval period and the brooch design is based on an 11th century coin. This brooch has been linked to coins issued by Aethelraed (ruled AD 978-1016), Cnut (ruled AD 1016 to 1035) and Edward the Confessor (ruled AD 1042 to 1066).

This brooch is important as it names an individual who may have lived in the county and is the first such find for Leicestershire.

The brooch is inscribed
+ P (=W) V L F G Y F E M E A H A G H I R E
Divided into words, the text reads: + wulfgyfe me ah ag hire.
The language is Old English, the P standing for the letter ‘wynn’ and the text is probably to be translated as ‘+ Wulfgyfu owns me; owns (me) for her’. Wulfgyfu is a female name, so the her probably refers to Wulfgyfu.

2012T656 WMID-B1C4E3 small
Late Saxon brooch fragment (WMID-B1C4E3) Copyright: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Licence: CC-BY-SA.

The last such find was made in the early 1990’s in Wardley, Rutland.  In this case the object was a spacer plate from an early medieval linked pin set (rather like the Witham pins in the British Museum). It has a rare runic inscription, which names the owner as Ceolburg. The object is thought to date to the eighth century and is currently on display at Jewry Wall Museum in Leicester.

A Second ‘Unique’ Bracteate Find from Melton

A few years ago a new type of early-medieval ‘A’ type bracteate (LEIC-EDD980) was found in Scalford, Melton. This example was unique in bracteate imagery because it portrays a figure drinking from a glass cup or drinking horn.  Late in 2014, a second, incomplete example of this new type of bracteate (LEIC-1E63A8) was found in Hoby with Rotherby, Melton.

The Hoby Gold Bracteate
The Hoby Gold Bracteate (LEIC-1E63A8). Copyright: Leicestershire County Council. License: CC-BY.

The finder realised straight away that it was similar to the first one and study has revealed it to be die-linked, i.e. it was made using the same die, probably by the same person. This strengthens the idea that these bracteates were locally produced. The second bracteate from Hoby with Rotherby is unique since it features a border formed of wheel-like stamps never before seen on any bracteate even though over 1000 exist.

The imagery conjures up feasting in halls similar to that described in the epic poem ‘Beowulf’ and shows that ritualistic feasting was important enough to feature on these objects. They are, so far, the only objects known to show drinking from the Anglo-Saxon world.

The two finds also add weight to the importance of Melton Mowbray in the early medieval period. We think it may have been an early mint and a minster site.

Both objects will be on permanent display at Melton Carnegie Museum, as part of the refurbished and extended archaeology display.

The Melton Gold Bracteate
The Scalford Gold Bracteate (LEIC-EDD980). Copyright: Leicestershire County Council. License: CC-BY.

Boar Badge of Richard III from Bosworth Field

The boar was the livery badge of the household of Richard III. This badge (LEIC-A6C834) was found during the search for the Battle of Bosworth field and provides good evidence for the presence of a member of the king’s personal household in the area. The find spot is near to the marshy area where Richard fell. The badge adds weight to the other archaeological evidence that has now located the battlefield and therefore the place of death of Richard III.

The boar is on permanent display at the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre along with the other key objects that helped us to locate the site of this famous battle.

Boar Badge
Boar Badge. Copyright: Leicestershire County Council. License: CC-BY.

South Leicestershire Coin Hoard

In 2008 a Roman copper-alloy radiate coin hoard (LEIC-BFD867) of around 7,000 coins contained in a greyware storage jar was found in south Leicestershire.

South Leicestershire Roman Coin Hoard.
South Leicestershire Roman Coin Hoard. Copyright: The British Museum. License: CC-BY.

The coins range in date from AD 230s-290s, a time of great political upheaval in the Roman world, as is demonstrated by the plethora of rulers represented in the sample in what is a relatively short period. The group is broadly similar in composition to the many Romano-British coin hoards (at least 200 so far recorded) buried in the aftermath of the breakaway ‘Gallic Empire’. The Gallic Empire, whose capital was at the city of Trier, but which had held dominion over Britain, was established in AD 260 and reconquered by the legitimate (‘central’) emperor Aurelian in AD 274.

This hoard can be viewed at the Jewry Wall Museum in Leicester.