History

The Pentney Brooches

There are six brooches and, as only one shows any sign of wear, it is thought possible that they were a maker's stock, though they may have been the personal hoard of an individual. 
They are all made of silver and circular in shape, but each is individual in some respects from the others. 

The smallest brooch is the earliest and is the one which has been worn and used.  It has a decoration in the centre, of a cross in the technique known as "niello", a method of engraving a design on the metal and filling with a black compound.  There are stylised plants at the ends of the cross.

This drawing of a detail from the smaller brooch will show you how intricate are even the simplest of the designs.

There are two pairs of brooches, each pair similar in layout but differing in the details of decoration.  They show scrollwork, the heads of various beasts, and plant leaves and tendrils.

The largest of the brooches, is beautifully crafted with elaborate decoration, .

Why were the brooches buried?  Was there a raid on the area by the Vikings? Was their Saxon owner killed before he could come back to collect his wares?  What a pity we cannot touch their surface and be able to travel back in time for a moment, to see what really happened! Perhaps, some day, technology will help people to do just that, but, until then, we shall just have to use our imagination!

It is not known where the brooches were made, whether in Norfolk or further afield, though other finds have been made in the Norfolk area of similar craftsmanship, so it is quite possible that there was a local workshop, somewhere in East Anglia, capable of producing fine work like this.

I would like to thank the staff of the British Museum, particularly Jill Holmen and Sovati Smith, for the generous help given to me while researching this story. 

Rita Sheridan,
Warwickshire,
England

Email: rasheridan@lineone.net