Runic Objects from Staunch Meadow, Brandon featured in new exhibition

glass display of pottery fragments and poster information board

Featured image: Exhibition at Thetford Ancient House Museum

For the first time since their excavation in the 1980s objects from the Anglo-Saxon site at Staunch Meadow, Brandon will be displayed at Ancient House Museum, Thetford. Our Archives Officer Julie tells us more about the site.

The Middle Saxon site at Staunch Meadow, Brandon is sited upon an island of raised land (created from wind blown sand) in the floodplains of the Little Ouse River. About a third of this ‘island’ was excavated over a period of nine years from 1979-1988 revealing part of a complex settlement and cemetery site dating to the 7th-9th centuries AD.

Over 35 timber framed buildings were discovered within the small excavation area. These not only included houses and communal halls but also industrial buildings, churches and other monastic buildings. Funerary areas and two cemeteries were also uncovered.

excavated area showing the foot print of a church

The level of industry across the site was significant, with much of it focused near the river creating a waterfront manufacturing complex, where clay was processed for pottery manufacture and textiles made ready for weaving and grain was processed.

Agricultural buildings such as barns, byres and a stable indicate they were keeping animals and storing food in the settlement.

Several workshops were found, indicating that potters, weavers, wood and bone carvers were all working on the site. A smithy and two bakeries were also excavated. The high level of craftsmanship is demonstrated in the numerous amounts of fine artefacts found on the site.

Photograph of part of tweezer
Fragment of a pair of tweezers with a runic inscription

One of the very interesting things about the settlement at Brandon is the relatively large number of objects found that indicated literacy amongst the inhabitants. A portion, at least, of the people living at this site could read and write. Inkwells of antler and glass were discovered on the site alongside metal writing styli. Writing during this period is generally regarded as being ecclesiastical in nature, possibly relating to the writing of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.

The settlement declined and moved to the edges of the floodplain in the 9th century, but through trial trenching in other areas of the ‘island’ it is thought that the site continued in use as the Chapel of St Andrew which disappears from historical records in the 13th Century.

The objects going on display from the site include the runic inscribed antler inkwell, runic tweezers, a runic inscribed disc pin, writing styli and glass inkwell fragments. The British Museum will also be loaning the gold plaque discovered from the site by a metal detectorist prior to the excavations for the duration of the exhibition.

The exhibition will be open from 16th July 2022 until 8th July 2023 at the [Ancient House Museum in Thetford].

Find Out More:

Find out more about Ancient House Museum.

Access the archaeological excavation report for Staunch Meadow.

For further information about the glass and antler inkwells featured in our From the Vaults blog and the results of a PhD study about the people who lived at Brandon featured in our From the Vaults blog.

More details about the gold plaque from Staunch Meadow, Brandon.

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