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Swords of Kingdoms: The Staffordshire Hoard at Sutton Hoo exhibition welcomes visitors for first time



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A long-awaited exhibition of some of the most important Anglo-Saxon finds in the country will welcome its first visitors.

Swords of Kingdoms: The Staffordshire Hoard at Sutton Hoo opened its doors today and will run until October 30.

The exhibition has seen two of the most important Anglo-Saxon archaeological discoveries ever made reunited, bringing together treasures discovered at the Suffolk burial site alongside objects from the Staffordshire Hoard.

Hilt collar from ornate seax hilt. Picture: The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent City Council
Hilt collar from ornate seax hilt. Picture: The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent City Council

Shared details and the quality of the craftsmanship has led experts to believe the objects on display from Staffordshire may have been made in the same East Anglian workshops that also served royal Sutton Hoo.

Original objects from the famous 1939 dig at Sutton Hoo, on loan from the British Museum, will be showcased alongside the hoard as well as further finds from across the region on loan from Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

Visitors can see gold and garnet cloisonné and filigree, decorative work adorning weaponry fittings once wielded by some of the 7th century’s finest warriors

Gold mount with horse head terminals. Picture: The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent City Council
Gold mount with horse head terminals. Picture: The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent City Council

The Staffordshire Hoard includes predominantly weaponry fittings from over 100 different swords, as well as fittings from a seax, a long fighting or hunting knife, which is one of the finest surviving examples, possibly made for East Anglian royalty.

Laura Howarth, Sutton Hoo’s Archaeology and Engagement Manager said: “Every object tells a story. Whilst you can immerse yourself marvelling at the stories and skills behind each of the objects on display, Swords of Kingdoms is also a special opportunity to unite objects from different collections and weave a golden web of connecting threads which together speak of the seventh century warrior elite and a period of great change.

"Some chapters of each story may be lost to us today, but it is fascinating to wonder and imagine this golden and garnet adorned age.”

The exhibition has been curated in partnership with Chris Fern, an expert in the Staffordshire Hoard. Chris said: “The Staffordshire Hoard is a collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure from the battlefield.

Gold coins that will be on show at the exhibition. Picture: Trustees of the British Museum
Gold coins that will be on show at the exhibition. Picture: Trustees of the British Museum

"There are golden warrior objects from swords, war-saddles, a royal helmet and a great war cross. Like the related treasures of Sutton Hoo, they show us a distant age that mixed pagan magic with new Christian beliefs.

"This was a time when kingdoms across Britain battled for supremacy, when kings fought and slayed each other. A bit like Game of Thrones, but real."

Laura Howarth added: “Although some of the objects on display now bear their own ‘battle scars’ of damage inflicted during systematic object dismantling in the seventh century or from lying buried over centuries, others glitter as if freshly forged.

"The intricacy, complexity of design and skill of the Anglo-Saxons goldsmiths is truly breathtaking and this is such a special and significant occasion to be able to see some of their finest work on display at Sutton Hoo.”

The exhibition is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and New Anglia LEP.

Due to the exhibition's popularity, tickets to Sutton Hoo must be booked in advance, here.