Since its discovery in 1939, the Sutton Hoo Helmet has been a highly evocative symbol of Anglo Saxon England.
The discovery of the Sutton Hoo Helmet
The excavation of the grave barrows or mounds at Sutton Hoo was at the instance of Mrs Edith Pretty. She had travelled extensively with her father during her youth and her visits to Egypt had resulted in an interest in archaeology.
In May 1939, archaeologist, Basil Brown, who had been commissioned by Mrs Pretty to investigate the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo, came across the remains of a burial boat which turned out to be a 27-metre vessel. In July 1939, the excavation was taken over by Charles Phillips at the request of the Ancient Monuments Inspectorate of the Office of Works. Although little remained of the timbers that had formed the large chamber across the middle of the ship, Phillips’ team uncovered a significant number of objects were discovered inside the chamber including a large silver dish, a shield, a heavy gold belt buckle, a pair of beautiful shoulder clasps, a chain-mail shirt, additional Byzantine silver dishes, a cauldron and drinking vessels.
On 28 July 1939, the team came upon the crushed remains of a helmet. The fragments were boxed up and sent to the British Museum.
The reconstruction of the helmet
The first reconstruction of the helmet was moulded onto a plaster head. It was rather imperfect and a second reconstruction was undertaken by Nigel Williams at a later stage. After nine months of studying the various pieces, reconstruction of the helmet started onto a plaster dome covered with an oil free plasticine.
The pictures below feature the beautifully reconstructed original helmet as well as a replica.
The importance of the Sutton Hoo finding
The beauty and intricacy of the objects found demonstrated a sophistication that was unexpected by scholars from a period that was then called “The Dark Ages”. The find also illustrated that life in seventh-century eastern England was not isolated and insular. The objects found showed a connection to all of the then-known world.
Why does the Sutton Hoo Helmet interest me so much?
Quite simply, Sutton Hoo, where the helmet was discovered, is in Suffolk which is the area where my mother’s family lived and where she grew up. I have always been interested in my mother’s childhood and background and when I saw this helmet featured as one of the top 10 articles to see at the British Museum in London, I was thrilled. My husband, Terence, and I immediately sought this display out and he patiently waited while I read every inscription and took a photograph of every item in the display. He then accompanied me to the gift shop and bought me the book.
My interest in English history and the research for my recent book, While the Bombs Fell, written with my mother, Elsie Patricia Eaton, and published under my married name of Robbie Cheadle, sparked an interest in, and further historical research into, the various ghosts that are said to haunt the town of Bungay in East Anglia. The people who are purported to now be ghosts lived in a far greater range of time periods than I had researched previously. While the Bombs Fell is about life for an English farming family living in Bungay during World War II and covers the historical time period from 1939 to 1944 (the book ends just after D-Day and book 2 will feature the end of the war). Some of the ghosts of Bungay originate from the 12th century.
I had an idea for another book that would feature the ghosts I had discovered and researched. This book idea included an introduction that I think of, now that it is finished, as a Canterbury Tales of Bungay ghosts. It includes fictionalised accounts of the stories of each of the ghosts featured in the story. Each story required extensive research into the particular time period including food, drink and clothing from that ghosts particular time period.
I was advised by various other writers that I should separate my new supernatural and horror stories from my children’s books for marketing purposes. This separation has resulted in my new blog, called Roberta Writes, together with a separate email address and twitter account. I am using this separate profile for sharing my thoughts on, and discoveries about, historical characters and events that feature in the new book, Nemesis, or that just interest me. I am also sharing some of my more cynical poetry about modern life and current world events. Nemesis will be published under my maiden name of Roberta Eaton and, I am hoping, it will be the first of a number of supernatural books based on real historical events.
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