Historians and archaeologists are meeting today to discuss one of the largest and richest settlements of Anglo-Saxon England. ‘Anglo-Saxon Rendlesham, a Royal Centre of the East Anglian Kingdom’, taking place in Bury St Edmunds, will present new research on the internationally important archaeological discovery to the wider public.
Rendlesham lies only four miles from the famous Sutton Hoo burials and was first mentioned by the Venerable Bede writing in the 8th century as an Anglo-Saxon palace. Between 2008 and 2014 Suffolk County Council’s Archaeological Service has co-ordinated systematic metal detecting, geophysics and small-scale excavations at the site. Over a thousand Anglo-Saxon objects and large areas of both settlement and burials have been discovered.
The conference will present the results of the investigations, discuss the most significant findings and explore the potential of this important site. Rendlesham can now be identified as the royal place referred to by Bede and was an estate centre where the East Anglian kings would have stayed, feasted their followers, administered justice, and collected dues and tribute.
“The Rendlesham survey has identified a site of national and indeed international importance for the understanding of the Anglo-Saxon elite and their European connections,” explains Professor Christopher Scull of Cardiff University. “The quality of some of the metalwork leaves no doubt that it was made for and used by the highest ranks of society. These exceptional discoveries are truly significant in throwing new light on early East Anglia and the origins of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.”
The collaborations which have made the work possible will also be celebrated at the conference. The relationship between the landowner, professional archaeologists, metal detectorists, local amateur archaeologists and other local and national stakeholders has been crucial to the success of the work.
The four project detectorists, Alan Smith, Roy Damant, Terry Marsh and Robert Atfield are all delighted to have recovered several astonishing things which would have been lost in one way or another to future generations. Much of the recovered items are monetarily worthless, yet in archaeological terms are priceless for study purposes. Jude Plouviez, archaeological consultant says: “The project has been an exemplary illustration of how volunteer metal detecting can be used alongside other archaeological techniques to expand our understanding of the past.”
Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection, Cllr Matthew Hicks added, “This project is a great example of how Suffolk County Council facilitates and enables activity between numbers of interested parties to do the best for Suffolk. In this case we have co-ordinated activities involving the landowner, metal detectorists, national experts and academics as well as local societies. I am delighted that this conference is celebrating what is undoubtedly one of Suffolk’s and the country’s most important archaeological discoveries. A great achievement by all involved.”
This is a joint conference organised by Suffolk County Council, The Sutton Hoo Society, Council for British Archaeology East and The University of Suffolk. Speakers include local Archaeologists Jude Plouviez, Andrew Rogerson and Faye Minter and Professors Chris Scull and Tom Williamson. Sessions will be chaired by Dr Catherine Hills, Leslie Webster and Professor Martin Carver. For the full conference programme and more information on the Rendlesham project, visit: heritage.suffolk.gov.uk/rendlesham-conference-2016
You can learn more about Rendelsham in the 2014 issue of Saxon.