An Anglo-Saxon Spear from Surrey

One of the most interesting finds recorded from Surrey by the Portable Antiquities Scheme during summer 2018 was an Anglo-Saxon spearhead,  SUR-0EC561. This object was recovered by magnet fishing from the confluence of the Bourne or Hoe stream with the Abbey Stream and river Wey adjacent to Newark Priory, Pyrford (TQ0457).

Image of an iron spearhead from the Early Medieval Period.
Early Medieval iron spearhead. Copyright: Surrey County Council, License: CC-BY.

This spearhead has a lozenge-shaped cross section, with pronounced midrib and a characteristic split socket. According to a commonly used typological scheme for these objects produced by Swanton (1973) from studies of burial assemblages, aspects such as the profile and ratio of blade to socket length enable the spearhead to be attributed to category H2 (angular blade with concave curves to the angle) and dated to the latter half of the 6th century AD. It was heavily corroded by nearly fifteen centuries at the bottom of a river. It was also apparent that it had been intentionally bent to an angle of around 50° before deposition and would have been over 27cm in length when straight.

Spears had a great deal of meaning in early Anglo-Saxon society which was, in many ways, fundamentally a warrior culture. They were the most common weapon type of the 5th and 6th centuries, and are the most common type of weapon found intentionally deposited, like this example, in rivers. Two comparable examples of contemporary spearheads deposited in local rivers are known from within a kilometre or so of the find spot and many other examples are known from North Surrey and the Thames valley.

This find represents a rare and important material addition to our understanding of the pre-Christian cultural landscape in Surrey and the origins of the minster of Old Woking and the occupation activity underpinning the medieval site of Newark Priory. Following its recording by the PAS, the artefact was returned to the finder, who subsequently and very generously donated the spearhead to Guildford museum, where it now compliments the wider collection relating to Anglo-Saxon Surrey and the history of Newark Priory.