Royal sites revealed
Lying more than 275 miles apart, Rendlesham and Yeavering belong to a handful of sites named as a vicus regius or ‘royal settlement’ by the Anglo-Saxon cleric Bede. Later this month, both are set to showcase their early medieval significance, with the opening of a new exhibition and a new visitor attraction respectively.
Rendlesham’s story will be the focus of temporary displays at the National Trust site of Sutton Hoo, using 1,400-year-old artefacts to explore how the settlement evolved over 400 years, and how recent community excavations have helped to bring it to light once more.
Among the objects in the exhibition will be high-status gold and silver dress accessories, sword fittings, and horse-harness fittings, as well as more everyday artefacts, including buckles and pins, weaving items, pottery, and debris from metalworking and feasting activities, giving a fascinating insight into the East Anglian community.
Rendlesham Revealed: the heart of a kingdom AD 400-800 will run from 23 March until 29 October, and there will also be smaller displays at Norwich Castle and the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village & Country Park next year. See https://heritage.suffolk.gov.uk/rendlesham for more details.
Turning to the kingdom of Northumbria, Ad Gefrin Anglo-Saxon Museum and Whisky Distillery is set to open in Wooler on 25 March, immersing visitors in the world of the 7th-century royal court, and illuminating the huge complex of imposing timber halls that were unearthed just four miles away in the 1950s.
Within a recreated Great Hall, AV technology will introduce key characters associated with the court, while the main museum will showcase artefacts from Northumbria’s Golden Age, some excavated at Yeavering, others loaned by the British Museum and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. For more information, see www.adgefrin.co.uk.
Another Northumbrian site to have recently gained new museum displays is Lindisfarne Priory, where artefacts reflecting its key role in early English Christianity, the devastation of Viking raids, and the 12th-century monastery that rose from the ashes, were unveiled on 18 February.
Among the objects on show – many for the first time – at the English Heritage site are Britain’s first known prayer-bead necklace, one of the earliest surviving examples of knitting found in Europe, a recently discovered Anglo-Saxon glass gaming counter, and 21 name-stones inscribed with runic and Latin text.
The site has also gained a new monument commemorating Lindisfarne’s association with St Cuthbert, who joined the monastery in the 670s and was buried in its main church, before his relics were relocated to Durham Cathedral. As no evidence of his original shrine – once an important medieval pilgrimage destination – has survived, English Heritage commissioned sculptor Russ Coleman to mark where the original burial place may have been located.
For further information about the site and how to visit Lindisfarne Priory, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/ places/lindisfarne-priory.
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