A Bronze Age discovery in Lower Stonnall
Bronze Hoard and Burial
Found at Greensborough Farm
Reproduced with the kind permission of
Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society.
First published in 1968 (in volume IX of the Society's transactions).
Note that this article is presented in its original pagination, complete with footnotes.
Greensborough is now referred to as Gainsborough.
Edited by Julian Ward-Davies
April 2018, revised January 2019
On 12 February 1824, labourers removing sand from the side of a hill to enlarge the rickyard of Greensborough Farm, Shenstone, in South Staffordshire found, about 6 ft. below the surface, a grave of the usual churchyard form cut north-south in the sandstone rock, containing fragments of human bones and a piece of decayed wood. Within a few inches of the west side of the grave, lying in loose sand, was a hoard of twenty-one bronze implements, weapons and objects, together with a lump of lead contained in one of the specimens. The site was examined by William Hamper, F.S.A.1, who on 25 March reported the discovery to Dr. Samuel Rush Meyrick2, together with drawings of the twenty-two relics. Meyrick laid this communication before the Society of Antiquaries of London at their meeting on 1 April 1824, and a report was published in the Appendix to Archaeologia, xxi, 1827, pp. 548-9, but without any illustrations, and no drawings or further records can be traced in the Library of the Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House3. Sir John Evans gave this as his sole reference in his Ancient Bronze Implements, 1881, Hoard No. 40, pp. 285, 4654. Subsequently, Hamper's letter to Dr. Meyrick was published in an anonymous5 History of the Forest and Chase of Sutton Coldfield, 1860, pp. 3-4, together with some further relevant (contd...)
1. William Hamper (1776-1831), of Deritend House, Birmingham, F.S.A., 1821; author of Life, Diary and Correspondence of Sir William Dugdale, 1827, and other works: he submitted numerous communications to the Society of Antiquaries. See also: D.N.B. Barbara Ronchetti, 'William Hamper', Trans. Birmingham Archaeological Society, lxviii, 1952, pp. 111-120.
2. Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick (1783-1848), antiquary and collector, M.A., D.C.L., F.S.A., 1810, knighted 1832; author (inter alia) of History of Cardiganshire, 1810 and Antient Armour, 1824. He was a subscriber to Owen and Blakeway's History of Shrewsbury, 1825, list, p. 545; see footnote 6. For further particulars, see D.N.B.
3. Information from the late Dr. Philip Corder (Assistant Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries) who sought in vain for further records of the Greensborough, Shenstone, hoard; letter, 27 February 1959.
4. A.B.I., p. 285, 'Two swords, some spear-heads, celts, and other relics were discovered at Shenstone, Staffordshire, in 1824. Near them are said to have been some fragments of human bones.' p. 465, Hoard No. 40, 'Greensborough Farm, Shenstone, Staffs. Swords apparently perfect.' Obviously, Evans had not seen the actual objects or any drawings of them.
5. The authoress is known to have been Miss Agnes Anne Bracken (1800-1877), a much-respected resident of Sutton Coldfield, as demonstrated in the Memorial Notice of her published in the Sutton Coldfield Parish Magazine for April 1877: this refers to her local History, but states that it first appeared in 1866. We are indebted to the Librarian of Sutton Coldfield Public Library for a copy of this record, and to Mr J. W. Whiston for his researches into the history of local personalities named in our paper. An earlier identification of the author was given by Mr. J. Sidney Home of Stafford, 23 January 1959, who reported that on the fly-leaf of the copy of Miss Bracken's History in the William Salt Library, Stafford, has been written in pencil 'by L. Bracken.' He points out that V.C.H., Warwickshire, iv, 1965, p. 230 n says that this book was written by L. Bracken.
details, followed by an abbreviated version of a letter from Dr. Meyrick to Henry Ellis, Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries, dated 30 March 1824, which accompanied Hamper's communication. The original of this letter is missing from the Society of Antiquaries and it now seems clear that it was borrowed from the Library and never returned. On 3 January 1934, the late Miss H. M. Auden sent me an old letter that had come to light among manuscripts of the Rev. John Brickdale Blakeway acquired by her father, the late Prebendary Thomas Auden, F.S.A. This letter, given in full below, is superscribed to 'Henry Ellis, Esq.' signed 'Saml. Rush Meyrick' and dated from 30 Cadogan Place, 30 March 1824. Mr. A. R. Dufty, V-P.S.A., Master of the Armouries in H.M. Tower of London and a member of the Meyrick Society, identifies the writing as certainly that of the famous antiquary and he accepts it as being the lost original.
The letter is of outstanding importance because it ends with miniature sketches of the twenty-two objects comprising the Greensborough Farm hoard and these are the only illustrations of them known to survive (fig. 1). In default of further information, they may be regarded as Meyrick's rough copies of the (now missing) drawings forwarded to the Society of Antiquaries by Hamper with a numbered list of the objects. Meyrick's letter has been through the post, endorsed to 'The Revd. J. B. Blakeway6, Shrewsbury': the segment of dark red-brown postmark is illegible; it is also marked 'Too Late.' Below is written in pencil, 'With C. Curtis's7 best regards to B.L.A.' and in the same hand a note has been added in pencil between the third and fourth lines of the letter, 'from the Estate of W. Tennant, Esq.', according with Hamper's letter as given in the History of Sutton Coldfield above mentioned.
Blakeway, joint author, with Archdeacon Hugh Owen, of a well-known History of Shrewsbury, 1825, died on 10 March 1826, so it would appear that this letter remained among his papers at his death and was never returned to the Society of Antiquaries, to which I restored it in February 1968, when the Society agreed to present in exchange the block showing Meyrick's signature and the sketches at the end of the letter (fig. 1). As the basic sources of information may not be easily accessible for reference, it seems wise to quote them at length.
(a) The letter from Wm. Hamper, F.S.A., of which the original has not been traced: published in 1860 by the author of The History of Sutton Coldfield (Miss A. A. Bracken), end of p. 2, mainly p. 3. The following particulars of the discovery of a warrior's grave in this vicinity, on land now possessed by the Hon. E. Swinfen Jervis, are extracted from a correspondence obligingly communicated by Major Tennant:
From Mr. Hamper to Dr. Meyrick.
March 25, 1824.
On the 12th of last month, as some labourers were removing earth from the side of a hill at Greensborough Farm, at Lower Stonall, they discovered, about six feet below the surface,
6. John Brickdale Blakeway (1765-1826), M.A., was Vicar of St. Mary's, Shrewsbury, 1794-1826; his memorial is in the north transept of the church. The main collection of Blakeway MSS. is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. See D.N.B.
7. Presumably the Rev. Charles Curtis, Solihull, Warwickshire, who was a foundation subscriber to Owen and Blakeway's History of Shrewsbury, 1825, p. 544, and back of cover of unbound Part I, issued in 1822. Mr. Whiston has ascertained that he was brother-in-law of William Tennant and Rector of St. Martin's, Birmingham, of which living Tennant was patron. (J. Finch Smith, Notes and Collections . . . of Aldridge in the County of Stafford, part I, 1884, pp. 36-7.)
a grave, cut north and south, in the sand rock, and shaped like one in a churchyard. Fragments of human bones, or [? and] a piece of decayed wood, about the size of two hands, were all that the excavation contained; but within a few inches of the west side were found lying, in the loose sand, two swords, some spear heads, celts, and several other relics, all of bronze, which by permission of William Tennant, Esq., the owner of the estate, I submit to your examination. The large sword and spear head, and a celt, appear to have been broken by main force, probably when the remains of the warrior were committed to the peaceful sepulchre. By the desire of Mr. Tennant, my friend, Shirley F. S. Perkins, Esq., accompanied me to the spot on the 1st inst., when the grave was again opened by the same workmen . . .
Greensborough Hill is a pleasant knoll, commanding an extensive prospect. The course of the Icknield Street was within a mile to the south-east, and the Roman station, Etocetum, about two and a half miles distant, S.S.W. It is also midway, in a direct line, between Wall and Barr Beacon . . . We could not perceive any traces of circumvallation; but its site would offer great natural advantages for military defence; the valley on the south of the hill having been a morass, and the surrounding district having been covered with wood, as the name of Bosses implies. Near the surface of the ground, immediately over the grave, the skeleton of some animal was dug up, apparently of the porcine class, though, if a boar, no tusks were visible: but in our judgment, and in that of the labourers, it was a modern deposit. . .
There were drawings made of the twenty-two relics, and forwarded with this letter to the Society of Antiquaries.
1. Sword, in two pieces.
2. Sharp sword, or dagger.
4. Spearhead fragment.
5, 6, 7. Ferrules.
8. Ferrule, in two pieces, broken since it was dug up.
9. Spear head, fragment.
10, 11. Cylinders.
12, 13, 14. Rings.
15, 16. Pommels of sword handles.
17, 18, 19. Celts
21. A lump of lead found in No. 10 or 11.
22. A lump of copper.
These are in the possession of Captain Tennant, R.N.
Here follows an abridged version of Dr. Meyrick's letter to Henry Ellis. It may be assumed that this accompanied the drawings when they were returned to William Tennant in 1824.
(b) Letter from Dr. (Sir) S. R. Meyrick: the original found among Blakeway papers at Alderdene, Church Stretton, Shropshire, 1934.
Dr. Meyrick to Henry Ellis Esq., Secy to Socy of Antiquaries
My dear Sir,
Our friend Mr Hamper has done me the honor of selecting me as the means of laying before the Society of Antiquaries the result of an exhumation in Staffordshire, consisting of various arms and utensils, and has requested me to accompany the communication with some remarks of my own. He has, however, so amply described the discovery & its attendant circumstances that I fear I can add little of interest. The materials of which the weapons are composed; viz. Copper alloyed with Tin, prove that they must be ascribed to the Britons. The Romans, though they retained this component metal for their armour, had long prior to their invasion of Britain fabricated their arms of steel; & the quantity of Iron with which the mountains of the Baltic are so fully impregnated had suggested its use to the Anglo-Saxons before their arrival. No. 1. The sword called by the Britons Cleddyv, and also the Dagger exhibit in their hilts the rivet holes for fastening on what formed the handle. This in some instances was of the same materials, but seems to have been generally of horn, as the antient adage of that people was 'he who hath the horn (meaning the Handle) hath the blade', a maxim full of judicious reflection. Nos. 17, 18, 19, 20, commonly called Celts, are the Bwyellr-arvan or Battle axe of that people, the two first made to receive their handles, the others to be let into them. Bwyillr being a word evidently not derived from the Roman language, is indigenous, and therefore shews that axes were known to the Britons before the Roman invasion. Did this require corroboration, the immense quantity of these axe-heads dug up in Ireland were [sic] the Romans never set foot, would amply confirm the fact. When the original inhabitants of this isle adopted any Roman art, thing or custom, they at the same time retained its name; thus they called their own flat circular sword [sic, error for shield] by an appellation which has no etymon in Latin, Tarian, whence Targe & Target, but the long shaped shield of that people they designated Y-sgyd,
i.e. the Scutum. So the Romans found the only aperture in their houses by which light was admitted the Drws or Door, answering to their Ostium, and therefore introduced the fenestrum, fenest being at this day retained by the Welsh to imply a Window. But if I am right in my conjecture, those cylindrical boxes Nos. 10 & 11, which Mr. Hamper terms Non-descripts, are the greatest curiosities in this collection. I presume they were each furnished with flat pieces on their tops as the edges of them are so bent over as to have held something or other. If such a flat piece were perforated the butt end of a lance might have passed through and fitted into the socket below, and then we should have that sounding cylinder which Xiphilin from Dion Nicaeus mentions8 as being attached to the lances of some tribes of Britons with an intention of terrifying cavalry. He says that these balls were filled with little bits of metal that made a tinkling noise; and if these curiosities were for this purpose we can then account for the holes in their sides, as being requisite for the emission of sound. Nor do I think the accidental circumstance of one of these being found with a lump of lead in it, as at all militating against my conjecture. Probably the Society may think one of these, one of the Sword pommels, Nos. 15 & 16 and the hollow rod of office broken in two, Nos. 5 & 6 worthy of being engraved, as nothing of the kind has been previously exhibited, and I am sure Mr. Hamper and his friend would have no objection. On the proportionate quantities of copper and tin of which these and similar weapons are made, a very long paper may be seen in the Philosophical Transactions for 1796, by Dr. Pearson.
I have the honour to be Sir,
Yrs' Most respectfully
SAML. RUSH MEYRICK.
30 Upper Cadogan Place.
30th March 1824.
Under the address are appended twenty-two miniature sketches of the objects found in the Greensborough Farm hoard (fig. 1): the site is nowhere named in this letter.
The drawing of the largest object, spear-head No. 3, is only 44mm. in length, that of the sword, No. 1, is 42mm. The accompanying list tallies fairly closely with that given in Hamper's letter.
1. Sword, in 2 pieces.
2. Short Sword or Dagger.
3. Spear Head.
4. Spear Head.
5, 6, 7. Ferrules.
8. Ferrule, in 2 pieces, broken since it was dug up.
10, 11. Non-descripts.
12, 13, 14. Rings.
15, 16. Pommels of Sword Handles.
17, 18, 19, 20. Celts.
21. A Lump of Lead found in 10 or 11.
22. A Lump of Copper.
(c) The Published Record: Archaeologia, xxi, 1827, pp. 548-9, Appendix. April 1,1824:-
Wm. Hamper, Esq., communicated to the Society, by the hands of Dr. S. R. Meyrick, an Account of a Grave cut north and south in the sand-rock, discovered on the 12th of February preceding, by some labourers who were employed in removing sand from the side of a hill, for the purpose of enlarging the rick yard of Greensborough farm, in the township of Lower Stonnall in the parish of Shenstone in Staffordshire. Fragments of human bones, and a piece of decayed wood about the size of two hands, were all that the excavation contained; but within a few inches, on the west side, were found, lying in the loose sand, two swords, some spear-heads, celts, and several other reliques, all of bronze. Greensborough-hill is a pleasant knoll, commanding an extensive prospect. The farm buildings stand on its southern slope. The course of the Icknield-street runs within a mile to the south-east, and the Roman station Etocetum, or Wall, where the Icknield crosses the Watling-street, is little more than 2½ miles distant S.S.W.9 It is also midway in a direct line, between Wall and the well-known Barr-beacon, as laid down in the last map of Staffordshire.
8. We owe the identification of Dr. Meyrick's reference to Mr. Dennis Britton, who suggests that it may refer to the following passage from Dio Cassius; ... and a short spear, with a bronze apple attached to the end of the spear-shaft, so that when it is shaken it may clash and terrify the enemy. (Loeb edn., ix, pp. 262-5.)
9. N.N.E. is obviously the direction intended; Greensborough (now Gainsborough) Farm is 2½ miles S.S.W. of Wall church. The O.S. map of 1834 marks it as Greensbury Hill; Sanders in his History of Shenstone (1794 but written before 1774) calls it Greensberry Hill. The name is not included in W. H. Duignan's Notes on Staffordshire Place Names, 1908.
The fate both of the objects found and of the original drawings is unknown and enquiries made by Mr. J. T. Gould, F.S.A. (in preparation for his Men of Aldridge, 1957) have so far proved fruitless10. 'Father Frank' addressed an enquiry on the whereabouts of the hoard to the Birmingham Weekly Post, 9 August 1879, but no reply is recorded11. Even in 1824 no owner of the hoard itself was specifically named, neither is it clear whether the actual bronzes were submitted to the Society of Antiquaries or only drawings of them; there is no record that either were exhibited at the meeting of the Society of Antiquaries on 1 April 1824. In 1860, Miss Bracken quotes from correspondence communicated by Major Tennant, but at the end of the list of drawings she states that 'These are in the possession of Captain Tennant, R.N.'
From William Hamper's letter it could be inferred that the implements found were the property of William Tennant (of Little Aston, Aldridge, Staffs.) as owner of the estate and that they had been sent by his permission for Dr. Meyrick's examination. Indeed, from Meyrick's description of the two 'cylindrical boxes' Nos. 10 and 11, one might assume that he was handling the objects themselves, while in referring to the sword No. 1, he mentions rivet-holes in the hilt of the dagger which are not noted by Hamper; likewise the long ferrules Nos. 5 and 6, 'the hollow rod of office broken in two.' His suggestion that specimens should be engraved for the Society of Antiquaries was apparently not followed up. That the Greensborough bronze hoard was almost certainly in the possession of William Tennant, is implied by the words 'as ours' in one of the letters in the Birmingham collection addressed to William Hamper12.
Sutton, Dec. 21st, 1824.
My dear Sir,
Within these few days Mrs. Tennant has received a Letter from Mr. Tennant (who has been visiting Naples) which contains the following Passage: 'There can be no doubt that Mr. Hamper is right and Dr. Meyrick wrong about the Arms being British, at least one may fairly presume they are Roman, for with the exception of the Non-descript Cylinders, I found exactly the same Celts and all — tho' none in such good preservations as ours, in the Museum at Naples, of arms found at Paestum — the Metal and even the very Pattern of the Spear, Sword & Dagger with the indenture round the edges. Do tell this to Mr. Perkins and request he will communicate it to Mr. Hamper'. I can assure you, my good Sir, I have no little pleasure in forwarding this intelligence to you ...
Yours very faithfully,
S. F. S. PERKINS.13
In replying to Mr. Gould on 1 April 1957, Admiral Sir William Tennant of The Eades, Upton-on-Severn, Worcs., wrote, that although William Tennant of Little Aston was his great-grandfather, he had never heard of the discovery; neither was anything known to his cousin, Sir Charles Buchanan, who was also a great-grandson.
10. We are grateful to Mr. J. T. Gould for the loan of the correspondence.
11. Local Notes and Queries, No. 404, Birmingham Weekly Post, Birmingham Reference Library No. 144953, p. 226.
12. There are eight volumes of William Hamper's letters and papers in the Birmingham Reference Library (Nos. 125542 and 117630) and a catalogue of the sale
of his household furniture, etc. 20-24 June 1831 (No. 214510), including: 'Lot 216 A very rare collection of articles of very great antiquity, in suitable lots.'
13. The writer was the friend who accompanied William Hamper to the site of the Greensborough Farm burial and bronze hoard. His wife and infant son, who died in March 1801, are commemorated on the memorial tablet to her father, Joseph Duncomb, in Sutton Coldfield parish church.
On 18 December 1952, Mr. Harold F. Foden wrote, from "Gainsboro' Hill Farm, Stonnall, near Walsall", to say that nothing of similar character had been found during the sixty years occupation of Gainsborough (vice Greensborough) Hill Farm by the Foden family and he could throw no light on the discovery of the burial and hoard.
L. F. Chitty
Greensborough Farm (the name of the site as given by Hamper in his letter of 25 March 1824, reproduced in Archaeologia, xxi, 1827, pp. 548-9 and followed by J. Evans in Ancient Bronze Implements of Great Britain, 1881, pp. 285, 465) is to be identified with Gainsborough Hill Farm, as it is known locally and is so mapped on the 1-inch O.S. map (National Grid Reference SK 079025). It was described as in the township of Lower Stonnall and is in the parish of Shenstone, Staffs., though the farm-house is 2 miles south-west of Shenstone Church.
Although the southern slope of the natural sand-mound is gradually being quarried away most of the original mound still remains and at present is covered with a small copse. The hill commands a good view, especially to the south and it is on this side that the farm is situated. The rick-yard buildings have been set into the side of the hill and it seems that the shaded building on the plan (fig. 2) was the one built in 1824 and during whose construction the finds were made. The foundations of this building are deeper than 6 ft. below the surface of the mound and it is likely that the grave was completely removed during its construction.
It is unfortunate that the original account of the finds from Greensborough Farm is not more precise as to the exact relationship of the bronzes to the grave. Though it is possible that the bronzes were buried at the same time as the bones, and formed an associated gravegroup, it is by no means a certainty. The description 'within a few inches of the west side [of the grave] were found lying, in the loose sand,' could indicate that they were found outside the grave and so cannot be undeniably accepted as grave-goods. Without the definite association of the bronzes it becomes impossible to date the grave. However, examination of the drawings of the bronzes reveals that the socketed axes, palstaves, spear-heads, ferrules and chapes occur in pairs and perhaps would suggest the personal possessions of one or even two men rather than a hoard.
Hamper seems to have accepted the association of the bones and bronzes and he was followed by Meyrick. However, Evans in A.B.I., p. 285, indicated that he did not really accept this as an association: 'Near them [the bronzes] are said to have been some fragments of human bones.' From Hamper's letter all that one can say about the burial is that it was 6 ft. below the surface, a rectangular grave cut into the natural sand and containing fragments of human bones and decayed wood. The description suggests an extended inhumation in a wooden coffin14.
14. For Early Bronze Age burials in wooden coffins see H. W. and F. Elgee, An Early Bronze Age Burial in a Boat Shaped Wooden Coffin from North-east Yorks, P.P.S., xv, 1949, pp. 87-106; List (Appendix to Loose Howe Report), pp. 105-6.
The burial of the pig presents the same problem of association. If associated with the burial then it may be regarded as a ritual deposit. A number of ritual practices can be interpreted in the finding of animal bones associated with graves; bones that were the result of a funerary feast held at the side of the grave which are known from Neolithic burials, and whole animal carcasses deposited in graves, which we might have at Greensborough.
A similar deposit occurred at Konigsbruck, Alsace, France15 where a Middle Bronze Age inhumation was found, with the head resting on the body of a young boar. Any record of a burial dating from the Late Bronze Age, whether certain or suspect, is important because there is so little known about this aspect of the period. The British Late Bronze Age is marked by a great increase in the production of bronze implements, and the deposition of large hoards of bronze objects which are found mainly in the east and south-east of England.
Due to the lack of well-dated cemeteries it is not really clear what the dominant burial rite was during the British Late Bronze Age but in Europe during this time the popular burial rite was cremation in urns associated with grave-goods. A few associations of Late Bronze Age bronze objects with inhumations are known from this country but the majority of them were found during the last century and are rather doubtful. However, there are a few that seem more credible than the others. In 1898 at Buxton, Derbyshire16 two socketed axes and a broken leaf-shaped spear-head were found with human bones and a pot.
In the same county at Fenny Bentley17, a spear-head and two pins were found with human bones. From the North of England and Scotland there are three welldocumented burials with bronzes. At Butts Beck Quarry, Dalton-in-Furness, Lancs.18 a cist was found, 6 ft. long, 4 ft. deep and nearly 4 ft. wide which contained human and animal bones with a bent sword and a socketed spear-head. At Woundale Raise, Troutbeck, Westmorland19 burnt bones were found in a cist with a broken leaf-shaped spear-head, and from Fort George, Ardersier Point, Inverness-shire20 there is a record of a spear-head with lunate openings in the blade, found with a human skeleton.
It is noticeable that these burials occur in counties that are some distance from the main Late Bronze Age centres in Britain and so are more likely to have remained more isolated in their traditions, and the burials might represent a continuation of the practice of wellfurnished inhumations of the Early Bronze Age. Alternatively they might be of a late date within the British Late Bronze Age and have been influenced by the Continental Hallstatt Early Iron Age people. Only one Hallstatt grave is known in England, from Ebberston, Yorkshire21 which was an inhumation accompanied by a sword and chape.
The condition of the bronzes in the graves at Buxton, Butts Beck Quarry and Woundale Raise deserves comment. It seems that the bronzes accompanying these burials had been deliberately broken or bent before burial.
15. N. K. Sandars, Bronze Age Cultures in France, Cambridge, 1957, p. 80.
16. 17. W. H. Salt, Discovery of Bronze Axes etc., at Buxton, The Reliquary, vi, N.S., 1900, pp. 125-6. " P.S.A.L. 2nd Series, xvi, 1895-7, p. 211.
18. C. Fell and J. M. Coles, Reconsideration of the Ambleside hoard and the burial at Butts Beck Quarry, Dalton-in-Furness, T.C. & W., lxv, N.S., 1965, pp. 47-52.
19. C. Fell, A Bronze Spearhead from Woundale Raise, Troutbeck, T.C. & W., xlix, N.S., 1949, pp. 10-14.
20. In the Minute Book of the Society of Antiquaries of London, vi, 24 January 1750, p. 73. Quoted in Fell and Coles, op. cit., p. 51.
21. E. Howarth, Catalogue of the Bateman Collection of Antiquities in the Sheffield Public Museum, 1899, pp. 65 and 77. The idea of an actual Hallstatt invasion of Britain has now been questioned. See: F. R. Hodson, Cultural Groupings within the British Pre-Roman Iron Age, P.P.S., xxx, 1964, p. 99.
On the Continent there are a number of Iron Age burials (this period is in part contemporary with the British Late Bronze Age) in which the weapons have been bent or broken. At Oss, North Brabant in the Netherlands22, a Hallstatt iron sword, ritually bent, was found with cremated bones and other grave goods, and at Ovre Aleback, Gardby parish, Oland, Sweden23 cremated bones were found with bent iron swords and spear-heads. Perhaps the breaking of the warrior's weapons might have had some kind of ritual significance: the symbolic 'killing' of the weapons upon the death of their owner24. Weapons, especially swords, would have had a great prestige value and might have signified one's standing in society. That individual swords were highly prized is shown by the numerous examples that have been repeatedly repaired in antiquity.
No. 1 The Sword
The Greensborough sword is an example of the Late Bronze Age leaf-shaped variety, with four rivet-holes in the shoulders and a broken tang. The poor quality of the drawing and the fragmentary nature of the sword make it impossible to place the sword definitely in one specific class. Tentatively one might class it as a Ewart Park type of native sword as defined by J. D. Cowen25. This type of sword is typical of the later phases of the British Late Bronze Age. Though the bronze leaf-shaped sword with its many variants can be regarded as a type-fossil of the British Late Bronze Age it was first introduced during the Middle Bronze Age about 1200-1100 B.C. with indigenous production beginning about 1000 B.C. Cowen's intensive studies26 have revealed an origin for the British swords in the Urnfield culture of south-west Germany. Two types of sword, the Erbenheim and Hemigkofen, that occur in that area have also been found in the Thames valley; from these developed a long and varied series of native types of U and V shouldered swords with leaf blades of which the Ewart Park type is one.
No. 2 Short Sword or Dagger
If drawn on the same scale then this object is too small to be classed as a short sword and is best regarded as a dagger. Though the hilt is blank on the drawings, Meyrick specified that both the sword and dagger had rivet-holes27. Two forms of knife were common during the Late Bronze Age; those with a socket and those with a tang for the hilt. The tanged one generally had no rivet-holes in the tang but a small raised rib to secure the hilt-plates. One found in the Nottingham hoard28 did have a pronounced leaf-shaped blade like the Greensborough one.
22. S. J. De Laet, The Low Countries (Ancient Peoples and Places Series, 5), 1958, p. 140 and plate 45.
23. M. Stenberger, Sweden (Ancient Peoples and Places Series, 30),, n.d., plate 42.
24. See, L. V. Grinsell, The Breaking of Objects as a Funerary Rite, Folklore,, lxxii, 1961, pp. 475-91.
25. J. D. Cowen, Two Bronze Swords from Ewart Park,, Arch. Ael, x, 4th Series, 1933, pp. 189-98.
26. J. D. Cowen, The Earliest Bronze Swords in Britain and their origins on the Continent of Europe,, P.P.S., xvii, 1951, pp. 195-213.
27. Meyrick's letter, p. 3.
28. T. Close, P.S.A.L., 2nd Series, i, 1859-61, pp. 332-3.
Page 11The general form of this object and the fact that it had rivet-holes in the tang suggests that it might have been something like a Ballintober/Chelsea29 type of sword. These were a result of Middle Bronze Age rapiers being influenced by the first swords; the result was a weapon with a leaf-shaped blade and a rapier hilt.
No. 3 The Long Spear-Head
If the drawings are on the same scale then this spear-head would have been as long as the sword, probably over 2 ft. in length. Long spear-heads first appear in the Middle Bronze Age and because of their size they have been regarded as ceremonial. However, a more plausible explanation is that they were lance-heads, intended for use as a thrusting weapon instead of a throwing one. Indeed, some show no damage to the point but the sides have been chipped, which seems to have been the result of their use as a thrusting and parrying weapon.
Experiments carried out by Dr. J. M. Coles30 show how the bronze shields of the Late Bronze Age would not have been protection against a sword blow as the metal was too thin, and that leather shields were probably used; perhaps the lance would have been an additional defence against the sword. During the first millennium B.C. in Greece31 the popular weapons were the javelin or throwing spear and the heavy, larger lance. These weapons were later adopted by the Romans and Iberians32. A number of seventh-sixth century B.C. bronze buckets from North Italy33 depict scenes of cavalry and foot soldiers armed with both the javelin and the lance. As a number of British Late Bronze Age hoards show the same combination of the long lancehead and the short spear-head the same method of fighting might have been popular in Britain.
No. 4 The Broken Spear-Head
All that remains of this spear-head is the socket and the lower portion of the wings. From the drawing it appears to have been an example of a spear-head with hollow or partially hollow blade and offset wings. Spear-heads with offset wings are typical of the Wilburton industry34. This industry, named after the Wilburton hoard, Cambs.35 forms the first phase of the British Late Bronze Age and dates from about 900 B.C. onwards. Similar spear-heads have been found in the Wilburton and Andover36 hoards, the latter containing one with a hollow blade.
29. B. A. V. Trump, The Origin and Development of British Middle Bronze Age Rapiers, P.P.S., xxviii, 1962, p. 93.
30. J. M. Coles, European Bronze Age Shields, P.P.S., xxviii, 1962, pp. 156-90. 31
31. A. Snodgrass, Early Greek Armour and Weapons, 1964, pp. 136-9.
32. A. Arribas, The Iberians (Ancient Peoples and Places Series, 36), n.d., pp. 80-2.
33. J. Kastelic, Situla Art, Belgrade, 1965, plate 69.
34. For the Wilburton industry see: H. N. Savory, The Guilsfield Hoard, B.B.C.S., xxi, pt. 2, 1965, pp. 179-96; H. N. Savory, The Late Bronze Age in Wales, some new discoveries and interpretations. Arch. Camb., cvii, 1958, pp. 28-34. For the French equivalent see: J. Briard, Les Depots Bretons et L'Age du Bronze Atlantique, Rennes, 1965, pp. 175-98.
35. J. Evans, On a Hoard of Bronze Objects found in Wilburton Fen near Ely, Archaeologia, xlviii, 1884, pp. 106-14.
36. W. Dale, P.S.A.L., 2nd Series, xxvi, 1913-14, pp. 32-5.
Nos. 5 and 6 Ferrules
These objects are examples of tubular ferrules or sheathings for the end of spear-shafts. No. 6 is an example of the common tubular type with a rounded tip. It probably had two rivet-holes but these are not shown. No. 5 is the rarer tubular type with an expanded tip; a single rivet-hole is shown on the lefthand side. Similar ferrules occur in the Marden hoard, Kent37 and the Congleton hoard, Cheshire38. Ferrules are mentioned by Homer39 who says that they enabled the spear to be stuck into the ground so that it was always at the ready. In Britain they are characteristic of the Wilburton Industry, especially the round-tipped variety. Pointed ferrules are known in Germany40 in the twelth-tenth centuries B.C. (Early and Late Hallstatt A), and a similar pointed ferrule occurs in the Ffynhonnau hoard, Brecknockshire41 with a Hallstatt A knife. It is probably from this pointed type that the British series was derived.
No. 7 Socketed Object
This object was originally described as a ferrule and it might have been another example of the expanded-foot type, thought the large socket would suggest that this original classification is incorrect. It might have been the socket from a spear-head but here again it seems too wide and does not appear to have been broken. The only object that is remotely like this one comes from the Isleham hoard, Cambs.42 but this too is of unknown use.
No. 8 Broken Object
This piece was originally described as a ferrule, broken in two pieces when found. From the drawing it looks like a flattened fragment of a tubular ferrule.
No. 9 Socketed Gouge
Though this piece was described as a spear-head, it may have been a socketed gouge43 (as was recognized by Mr. A. J. H. Gunstone in 1964)44. Socketed gouges were quite common in the Late Bronze Age and are typical of the later phases, appearing first, in Britain, during the ninth-eighth centuries B.C. The Late Bronze Age sees a great increase in the number of gouges, chisels and axes which would indicate a nourishing woodworking industry.
Nos. 10 and 11 Non Descripts
Meyrick described them as the 'greatest curiosities in this collection'; this still remains true today. He wrote: T presume that they were each furnished with flat pieces on their tops as the edges of them are so bent over as to have held something or other. If such a flat piece were perforated the butt end of a lance might have passed through and fitted into the socket (contd...)
37. Rev. Beale Post, Romano-British Antiquities in Bronze found in the Parish of Marden, Kent, J.B.A.A., xiv, 1858, pp. 257-62.
38. J. W. Jackson, Ant. J., vii, 1927, pp. 62-1
39. Homer, Iliad,, x, p. 153.
40. J. J. Butler, Bronze Age Connections Across the North Sea, Palaeohistoria, ix, Groningen, 1963, p. 133.
41. H. N. Savory, 1958, op. cit., fig. 3.
42. D. Britton, The Isleham Hoard, Cambs., Ant., xxiv, 1960, pp. 193-233.
43. G. Eogan, Some Notes on the Origin and Diffusion of the Bronze Socketed Gouge, U.J.A., xxix, 1966, pp. 97-102.
44. A. J. H. Gunstone, An Archaeological Gazetteer of Staffordshire, N.S.J.F.S., iv, 1964, p. 34.
below . . . .' From this account, which is not at all clear, it is impossible to say exactly what they were used for. A piece of lead found in one of them does not really prove that they were the 'sounding cylinders' of Dio Cassius45. It seems that Dio Cassius was describing the type used by the Caledonians in the time of Severus (third century A.D.). These were globular and more likely to have been described as apples like the one from Inverury, Aberdeenshire46. In a recent letter to the authors Prof. Christopher Hawkes indicated that he felt sure that the objects Nos. 10 and 11 must have been cast bronze hub-caps and kindly supplied the following information. The basic Continental type of hub-cap consisted of a short cylinder, cast with the outer end closed, the body pierced with two oblong holes to take the linch-pin, and inner end opening through a broad flat rim, to fit against the wooden hub itself. (For a good illustration of the type; Hermann Muller-Karpe, Das urnenfelderzeitliche Wagengrab von Hart, Oberbayern, Sonderdruck aus den Bayerischen Vorgeschichtsbldttern, xxi, 1955, Abb. 6, No. 3.) Though such hub-caps begin c. 1100 B.C. in Europe, they do last until c. 500 B.C. Wagonry must have come into the British Isles during the eleventh century B.C. (evidence from the Wilburton hoard) and then developed along insular lines, the Greensborough pieces being examples of such rare objects.
No. 12 Ring with two Loops
The artist appears to have drawn the underside of a ring of semi-circular cross section, indicating the two loops for attachment by very faint lines. Rings with loops or slots to take straps are well known from the Late Bronze Age and were probably used as part of a horse's or warrior's accoutrement. Similar rings to the Greensborough one have been found in the Edinburgh47, Wilburton and Isleham hoards.
Nos. 13 and 14 Plain Rings
Plain rings of varying diameter have been found in a number of Late Bronze Age hoards in the British Isles; notable are the ones from the Horsehope hoard, Peebleshire48 and the Parc-yMeirch hoard, Denbighshire49. They are often associated with other objects of horse-gear and probably formed part of the trappings.
Nos. 15 AND 16 Bag-Shaped Chapes
Hamper described these objects as sword pommels. If he was correct they would have been similar to the pommel found in the Tarves hoard, Aberdeenshire50. However they are more likely to have been examples of bag - or purse-shaped chapes which encased the tip of a leather or wooden scabbard. There are a number of such chapes from hoards characteristic of the later phases of the Late Bronze Age. Though the basic form is the same they do differ in detail and those most comparable with the Greensborough ones come from the Eaton hoard, Norfolk51 and the Grays Thurrock hoard, Essex52. They are characteristic of the Carp's (contd...)
45. See note 8.
46. British Museum, Iron Age Guide, 1925, fig. 190.
47. Evans, A.B.I., fig. 500.
48. S. Piggott, A Late Bronze Age Hoard from Peebleshire, P.S.A.S., Ixxxvii, 1952-3, pp. 175-86.
49. T. Sheppard, The Parc-y-Meirch Hoard, Saint George Parish, Denbighshire, Arch. Camb., xcvi, 1941, pp. 1-10.
50. British Museum, Bronze Age Guide, 1920, fig. 105.
51. City of Norwich Museums, Bronze Age Metalwork in Norwich Castle Museum, Norwich, 1966, fig.7 9.
52. In the Colchester Museum.
Tongue sword53 industry. This industry, named after its distinctive sword-type, originated in north-west France and arrived in England during the eighth-seventh centuries B.C.
No. 17 Socketed Axe Decorated with Three Ribs
The socketed axe appears to have been perfect except for slight damage to the edge of the blade. Slight vertical lines on the drawing indicate that it was decorated with three raised ribs. Though the socketed axe is the commonest of all Late Bronze Age objects as yet no exhaustive study has been made of them. However an Irish,54 Scottish,55 Yorkshire58 and Welsh57 type of three-ribbed socketed axe has been defined but it is impossible to relate the Greensborough axe to any of these classes.
No. 18 Plain Socketed Axe
Owing to the lack of detail this socketed axe cannot be placed in any one class. But a number of classes of plain socketed axes have been recognized including an Irish58, southeastern59, and facetted type60.
Nos. 19 and 20 Palstaves, Looped61
Palstaves were the characteristic tool of the Middle Bronze Age (the earliest forms having no side-loops), but they did persist into the Late Bronze Age. Again the poor quality of the drawings prevents a detailed classification although it is clear that the two objects are not of the same class.
No. 21 Lead Fragment
Metal analysis62 of Middle Bronze Age objects shows that they hardly ever contain more than 1% lead and very commonly much less, whereas Late Bronze Age objects, at least in southern and eastern England, contain more than 1% lead. The lead was probably added intentionally, either to make casting easier or to economize on copper. One would expect the large 'founders' hoards of the period to contain ingots of lead as well as of tin and copper, but lead has been found in only one other hoard, that from Mildenhall, Suffolk63 though the Auchtertyre hoard, Morayshire64 contained a fragment of a ring with the composition 78.66% (contd...)
53. For the Carps Tongue sword industry see: E. Evans, The Sword Bearers, Ant., iv, 1930, pp. 157-72. H. N. Savory, The Sword Bearers, a re-interpretation, P.P.S., xiv, 1948, pp. 155-76. J. Briard, Les Depots Bretons et Vage du Bronze Atlantique, Rennes, 1965, pp. 199-239.
54. H. W. M. Hodges, Studies in the Late Bronze Age in Ireland, U.J.A., xix, 1956, p. 31. In particular see fig. 6 which shows a distribution of Irish, Scottish and Yorkshire three-ribbed axes.
55. W. Henderson, Scottish Late Bronze Age Axes and Swords,, P.S.A.S., lxxii, 1937-8, pp. 150-77.
56. C. Fox, The Personality of Britain,, 4th edn., Cardiff, 1943, pp. 71, 93, fig. 40, No. 7.
57. C. Fox, A Second Cauldron and an Iron Sword from the Llyn Fawr Hoard,, Ant. J., xix, 1939, p. 390 and plate lxxx, 2.
58. Hodges, op. cit., fig. 7.
59. J. J. Butler, ronze Age Connexions across the North Sea,, BPalaeohistoria, ix, Groningen, 1963, pp. 82-6.
60. Hodges, op. cit., p. 29.
61. The best account of palstaves is still BA.B.I., pp. 78-106.
62. M. A. Smith and A. E. Blin-Stoyle, A Sample Analysis of British Middle and Late Bronze Age Materials using Optical Spectrometry, P.P.S.,, xxv, 1959, pp. 188-208. For lead, see especially pp. 193, 200. Colin Burgess's work on the Late Bronze Age in Northern Britain (given in a lecture to the Prehistoric Society, December, 1966) shows that lead was not intentionally added to the bronze objects until the final phase of the Late Bronze Age in that region, whereas it was added right from the start in southern England.
63. Council for British Archaeology Bronze Age card catalogue, in the British Museum.
64. J. M. Coles, Scottish Late Bronze Age Metalwork, P.S.A.S., xciii, 1959-60, p. 121.
tin and 21.34% lead. Ingots of tin are also very rare in Late Bronze Age hoards. The question of why the hoards do not contain any fragments of lead or tin is an unsolved problem.
No. 22 Copper Ingot
Lumps of copper are characteristic of the hoards of the later phases of the Late Bronze Age and analysis of these pieces has shown them to be of pure copper65.
The finds made at Greensborough Farm in 1824 are the most important Late Bronze Age discovery known from Staffordshire. It is impossible to say with certainty whether or not there was a grave accompanied by the bronze objects, but if this were so, it would be of great importance because of the scarcity of such finds in Britain. If not a burial accompanied by grave goods, the hoard itself is noteworthy owing to the rarity of Late Bronze Age finds from that area of Britain.
Though the drawings lack detail a full description has been attempted. The recognizable objects in the hoard can be assigned to a number of British Late Bronze Age traditions; the ferrules and the spear-head with offset wings belong to the Wilburton industry whose main area of distribution lies in south-east England, the bag-shaped chapes belong to the Carps Tongue complex, while the sword, palstaves, socketed axes and socketed gouge belong to a native industry. Objects, Nos. 10 and 11 seem to be quite unique in Britain, no exact parallels having been found as yet. One has to date the objects by their most recent components; these are the Carps Tongue bagshaped chapes, which would give a date within the seventh-sixth centuries B.C. for this interesting collection of objects.
The only other definite Late Bronze Age hoard known from Staffordshire was found at Armitage (alias Hermitage) on the Trent in April 1782. It consisted of two bronze spear-heads and two socketed axes, described as 'Roman weapons of brass' by Richard Greene, whose letter, dated Lichfield 15 May 1782, was published in the Gentleman's Magazine, lii, 1782, pp. 281, 559, with an illustration facing p. 368, which shows a broken spear-head (length 1½in. but with the point and end of the socket missing) and a three-ribbed socketed axe (length 4in.), comparable with Greensborough Farm Nos. 3 and 17. Greene's letter and the illustration are reproduced in Shaw's Staffs., i, 1798, pi. A, Nos. 11, 12, and p. *208. The implements, which were then in Greene's Museum at Lichfield are now missing. They are included in Gunstone's gazetteer, N.S.J.F.S., iv, 1964, p. 14, but no reference is made to the illustrations.
My grateful thanks are due to Dr. J. M. Coles and Mr. Dennis Britton for their many helpful suggestions regarding the text of this paper, to Prof. Christopher Hawkes for his help with objects Nos. 10 and 11 and to Miss L. F. Chitty for allowing me to write this paper with her. August, 1967.
This paper has been published with a grant which has been generously made by the Marc Fitch Fund.
65. R. F. Tylecote, Metallurgy in Archaeology, 1962, Table 8.
1824/1827 Archaeologia, xxi, 1827, pp. 548-9, Appendix. Communication by William Hamper and Dr. S. R. Meyrick: identical record in minutes of the Society of Antiquaries, 1 April 1824.
1860 Anon. (A. A. Bracken), History of the Forest and Chase of Sutton Coldfield, including the Border Districts of Great Barr, Perry Ban, Erdington, Curdworth, Wishaw, Middleton, Drayton, Weeford, and Shenstone. Compiled from the best accessible sources, pp. 2-4.
1881 Sir John Evans, Ancient Bronze Implements, Hoard No. 40, indexed under 'Shenstone,' pp. 285, 465.
1908 Victoria County History, Staffordshire, i, pp. 178-9, 181.
1963 N. Thomas and A. J. H. Gunstone, Archaeological Journal, cxx, p. 261 in 'An Introduction to the Prehistory of Staffordshire' written for programme of Summer Meeting of Royal Archaeological Institute at Keele in 1963.
1964 A. J. H. Gunstone, North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies, iv, p. 34, in 'An Archaeological Gazetteer of Staffordshire, Part I, Chance Finds & Sites.' This was published before the Blakeway letter had been recognized as in the actual handwriting of (Sir) Samuel Rush Meyrick: see above, p. 2. Mr. C. B. Burgess points out that the leaf-shaped sword from the hoard must have been of the Ewart Park type and not of the Ballintober category, as identified in Mr. Gunstone's list.
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