This post provides a brief(ish) update on a well-published type of 9th-century strap-end depicting two beasts rendered in the Trewhiddle style. The name ‘Wooperton type’ comes from an example published by Richard Bailey in 1993, and arguably has a better ring to it than ‘Thomas Class A, Type 1avii’, as the type was designated in Gabor Thomas’s 2000 PhD thesis on early-medieval strap-ends, or ‘Haldenby Group 4’ following Dave Haldenby’s earlier strap-end analysis. Bailey’s example from Wooperton, Northumberland, was significant in a local context of a lack of contemporary metalwork known that far north. However, it is something of a misnomer, as is often the case with such archaeological naming, as the other examples that Bailey cited were all in fact from Yorkshire, hence my ‘guest’ post appearing on Yorkshire’s County Pages.
The type characteristically has a plate with curved long sides, and a stylised palmette below the two rivet holes at the split attachment end. At the opposite end is a stylised animal head with prominent, bulging oval eyes and ears decorated with crescentic recesses. Between the two is a sunken field within which are two beasts, one above the other, although this reading is open to debate. According to this interpretation (with which I agree) both of the animals’ heads are in the left of the field when viewed with the attachment end uppermost; the upper beast’s gaping jaws are pointing down, while the lower beasts has jaws gaping to the left. Both animals can be decorated with a speckling or stippling that is characteristic of the 9th-century Trewhiddle style.
In his 1993 article Bailey published five examples of the type, arguing for a common place of production; at the time, this was the first identification of a workshop for such middle to late early-medieval strap-ends. He further argued that within this workshop, suggested to have been in York, the same model could be seen to have been used for four out of the five strap-ends. Bailey’s distribution was not published in his note, but is rendered here, left, with York as the large cross).
The type was pursued, as noted, by Gabor Thomas, who did publish a distribution map in a 2001 article (reconstructed here, right; the data underlying Haldenby’s earlier map (1997) is not available, although it does seem to show examples not otherwise noted). In his commentary Thomas suggested that discoveries since Bailey’s original article had ‘to some extent reinforced’ the attribution to a workshop in York, while explaining outliers on the west coast in terms of redistribution patterns based on routeways across the Pennines towards coastal trading sites on the Irish Sea.
To the original five strap-ends documented by Bailey, plus another eight noted by Thomas, we can now add a further seven examples recorded by the PAS, plus one from excavation (Richards et al. 2013, 245; fig. 20.30). These continue to strengthen the cluster around York, the majority found within a 100-km radius of the city (map above). On all seven PAS examples the design would seem to be from the dominant model identified in Bailey’s dataset (see example YORYM-D23B76, pictured above).
The PAS database also allows for a rapid assessment of the uniformity of the type picked out by the above authors (graph to right). One can see that these strap-ends rarely fluctuated even a millimetre beyond their average width of 11.5 mm and length of 37 mm, as noted by Bailey. In this respect, an example from Preston, East Riding (YORYM-E2E718), appears slightly crude and diminutive.
For the ‘Wooperton-type’ strap-end the PAS data helps reinforce the hypothesis of local production, and also a distinctive dress accessory ‘look’ in the kingdoms of Northumbria and Lindsey, even if Wooperton itself has always been something of an outlier!