One that links Mrs Edith Pretty, a Suffolk landowner, to an Anglo Saxon warrior King, thought to be Raedwald, a powerful Anglo Saxon King.
It is about one of the most influential and important archaeological discoveries ever found in Britain. It links two times in our countries turbulent history. One ends mysteriously 1,400 years ago during Anglo Saxon times, when there were vicious wars between overlords, warriors and Kings. The other was on the eve of the Second World War in 1939, a different, but also a violent time.
The 20th century story tells of a Mrs Edith Pretty who owed some land in Suffolk that included some strange shapes and grassy mounds. One summers evening in 1939, Edith and a friend claimed they saw ghostly warriors fighting above these mounds. So, she asked an archaeologist, Charles Phillips, to help excavate the mounds.
When Charles Phillips opened up Mound 1, he simply swore‘ !!! Godfathers’, as the importance of what he had discovered hit him. It was as if they had won the jackpot and meant that Phillips continued to mutter all through that historical day ‘Oh dear Oh dear’.
Buried in the acidic soil was a huge ancient wooden ocean going ship. It had been reduced, through time, to shadowy shapes in the soil structure, divided by metal ship rivets, still held in position by the soil. This ship was similar in size and shape to the Longships used by the Vikings a few hundred years later. The discovery was covered in national newspapers and hailed as one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made in Britai
Buried in this ship was an Anglo Saxon warrior King with all his wealth, gold, silver, ornate swords, armour, and fragments of fine cloths from Syria. There was also a North African bowl, along with his horses and food who were buried with him for his journey to the Pagan afterlife.
Unfortunately, the dead king’s body was missing. All that remained of the body was a ghostly chemical trace imprinted in the soil, as the bones themselves and everything else eroded into nothing.
So, who was he?
We don’t know for sure, and will probably never really know for certain. However, many historians and scholars believe he was Raedwald, a powerful Anglo Saxon King. Readwald is mentioned in the ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ written 300 years after the Anglo Saxons by a monk called Bede. Little is known about Raedwald himself other than his appearances in Bede’s work. The Anglo-Saxon period as a whole is difficult to research, as the Saxons themselves were illiterate. Their history was oral and handed down through story and song, therefore much was lost and why this discovery was so important.
Many items were recovered from the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo but it is the items from Mound 1 that are the most lavish. These included a ceremonial helmet; a majestic pattern welded sword, a huge shield. Jewellery such as broaches and shoulder clasps. Two buckets made from toxic Yew wood. Tableware such as plates and spoons. Fragments of rich cloth’s that only survived where they were in contact with or wrapped around metal objects, these were clothes such as cloaks, wall hangings and coverlets.
However there was a greater Treasure.
The real treasure of Sutton Hoo was that we learnt so much more about this period of our history. It meant that we discovered so much about a time archaeologists and historians knew so little. These discoveries have helped us develop a picture of life in England over 1700 years ago.
That is why this treasure is worth so much more than just gold or silver.
As this was such an important discovery we have published a schools musical, so children can learn what we learnt of those times. It is called The Saxon King – The Story of Sutton Hoo, which you can download it at https://www.educationalmusicals.co.uk/product/the-saxon-king/. There you will also be able to read two pages of script and hear two of the songs. Your children will love it and especially the songs.