Beautiful medieval brooches discovered in England and Wales

Several spectacular medieval brooches have been recently discovered in England and Wales. They include finds from both the early and later Middle Ages.

Perhaps the most impressive find is the Cheddar Brooch, a large silver and copper alloy disc discovered in southwest England. It has exceptional decoration: interlaced animal and plant designs in bright silver and black ‘niello’ are set against a gilded back panel. The animals represented include wyverns – dragon-like creatures with two legs, wings and long tails.


“Conservation has transformed this fascinating brooch and revealed the intricacies of its design,” says Amal Khreisheh, Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Somerset. “The fascinating details uncovered include fine scratches on the reverse which may have helped the maker to map out the design. A tiny contemporary mend on the beaded border suggests that the brooch was cherished by its owner and worn for an extended period of time before it was lost.”

The brooch was found by Iain Sansome while metal-detecting on farmland near Cheddar, Somerset, in 2020. It is now on display at The Museum of Somerset in Taunton.


Welsh brooch

Meanwhile, Museum Wales has announced the discovery of a silver annular brooch, which was found by Joanne Prosser in 2022 during a metal-detecting rally in Monmouthshire. Its frame has a circular cross-section, with half of one face decorated with wide grooves of black-coloured niello inlay. The wrap-around head overlaps at the top and swivels freely on the frame. At the junction of pin-head and shank, the raised collar is decorated with three transverse punched grooves.

Medieval silver annular brooch from Caerwent Coomunity – Photo: © Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales

The brooch dates from the 13th or 14th century, and is similar to other examples of brooches found throughout Wales during this period. Joanne Prosser explains, “I feel very lucky to have found this brooch in my first few months of detecting. It’s wonderful to think back to the people who made and wore it, and to be part of the story by uncovering it centuries later.”

Plans are underway for Chepstow Museum to acquire the item.

Bird and Square Brooches

The Portable Antiquities Scheme, which assists people in England and Wales record the archaeological objects they find, has also released details of recent discoveries of several other fascinating brooches. They include:

Image courtesy The Portable Antiquities Scheme

A square annular brooch – made of copper, it dates to between the years 1250-1450. The record of the item states:


The frame is square with knops projecting outward from the corners and from the mid-points on the frame. The pin is secured through an integrally cast loop in one of the corners of the frame. The pin itself is looped through and is a purposely designed pin rather than simply rolled wire. Each of the knops comprises a roughly square projection in line with the frame but projecting up from it, these are decorated with incised transverse lines.

Image courtesy North Lincolnshire Museum

A bird brooch – made in the Anglo-Scandinavian style, it dates to the first half of the twelfth century. The bird, possibly meant to be a peacock, is described like this in the record:

A cast openwork plate depicts a thin standing bird with triple comb, head to left with a long slightly curved bill and a large eye defined by a deep annular gutter with centrally reserved pellet. A sinuous neck with a central double groove curves rightwards below the head and bill to arrive at a narrow body with three transverse comma-shaped ribs perhaps representing a folded wing. A curled string-like feature also passes diagonally across the lower part of the neck. A tail continues this in recurved form below, with a bevelled or keeled mid-part and a slightly expanded feathered end. 

Image courtesy Bristol City Council

Two early medieval brooches – this pair were dicovered near Bristol. Dating to between the years 450 and 550, both brooches are described as having very detailed square panels surrounded by a double inwardly facing crescent. Interstingly, these items were found in late 2022, but then other parts of these objects were found a year later. See records GLO-B9E5E1, GLO-B9DC5E, GLO-D70D27 and GLO-D6BDB4 for more details.

Top Image: Cheddar Brooch – photo courtesy Somerset Council