Friday, June 6, 2014

The New Anglo-Saxon Room at the British Museum

By Richard Denning

 Room 41 of the British Museum has been closed for a long spell whilst it was redecorated and a new permanent display brought in. The  now reopened gallery houses what is surely the finest collection of Anglo-Saxon artifacts anywhere as well as the most prestigious items from the famous Sutton Hoo burial of King Redwald of East Anglia. In April when I was at the London Book Fair I took the opportunity to visit and take some images.

Pride of place goes to this helmet. It belonged to King Redwald and was buried with him around 626 AD. It is one of only four helmets that survive from the Anglo-Saxon period--a reminder that what we know of these people is based often on limited records or finds.

The Franks Casket was made around AD 700 in Northumbria. It contains scenes in which the fairly new Christian Faith and the older Pagan tradition were side by side as the people tried to maintain the best of both worlds. It also shows many runes and is one of the examples of evidence we can turn to to show what the early Anglo-Saxons believed and how they wrote. Alongside these magnificent artifacts are more mundane but sometimes more striking pieces. Examples of grave goods are shown.

 This cabinet shows typical artifacts found in female graves.  Examples include bone or clay weaving equipment like loom weights and whorls and iron batterns. Also shown is a needle box. Male graves might contain weapons, buckles from belts, game pieces and sometimes money.

In the graves of men and women we might find items used to keep clean and groomed. Here is a razor, tweezers and bone comb.

 There are many replica items and reconstructed artifacts, an example being this shield:

  IMG_1481 (Copy) 

For anyone interested in history this reopened hall is worth a visit but for those of us with a more specific interest in the period there are many items here worthy of study.


Richard Denning is a historical fiction author whose main period of interest is the Early Anglo-Saxon Era. His Northern Crown series explores the late 6th and early 7th centuries through the eyes of a young Saxon lord.


  1. Fascinating. I particularly love the casket and thanks for the information about its beautiful decorations. If only I lived in London but visits to places like the British Museum are always snatched in-between visiting family. This kind of museum requires a full day with planning. Next time...

  2. My son spent time there on his last junket and was mesmerized. This post tells why.

  3. Loved this...thanks for sharing!

  4. Awesome! A must-see for next trip to England.


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