Over the weekend I visited the Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar to check out the Anglo-Saxon exhibit they have there. This is the first time my trip had involved an actual official exhibition, and it was definitely a more detailed experience.
The geographically astute among you are probably noticing that Redcar is an exceedingly long way away from Huntingdonshire. Unless you’re American or from another large country, in which case you probably don’t think that anywhere in Britain is very far away from the rest of it.
I got there because I went up to Darlington to visit a friend. Because she has done Nanowrimo (except properly with a novel) several times, she was sympathetic to my constant search for these daily posts, and so off we tootled to the coast. After she’d patiently stood around while I took photographs of literally everything I could see, including using her height to take better photos, we went to the seaside and got chips and ice-cream. Best trip ever is what I’m saying.
As I said up there, this was a proper museum exhibit. This means that I wasn’t just taking photos of small pieces of buildings, or of things displayed in one small room. This covered the whole second floor; multiple rooms, multiple rooms. Even the gift shop was excellent, since they sold an extremely detailed guide for only £3, written by the same person who’d written … dun dun dun … THE ACTUAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL REPORT.
WHICH THEY ALSO SOLD.
(Please remember my complete thing for original sources.)
But yeah, so what I mean is that there was a lot of information there. It was exciting. Basic story: they were excavating an area expecting it to be full of Iron Age. They did find some of that, but they also found something completely unexpected: a luxurious royal burial and small cemetery in a 7th century Anglo-Saxon settlement.
You should all go, but in lieu of that, here is my little tour:
This is the exterior of the museum itself. It’s a Grade II* listed building, I think, and is quite impressive all by itself.
In I went, into the reception area and gift shop where the very nice people behind the desk directed us to the only exhibition I cared about:
Into the first room!
I intend to discuss this kind of thing more in this last week of daily blogging: the international nature of high status Anglo-Saxon life. I know the images aren’t clear: the caption is “Trade links across the world in Saxon Times” and some examples from the close-up map are ivory from Africa, garnets from beyond the edge of the map (Middle East? China?? Not sure) and amber from the Baltic. This room also had a detailed timeline and a map of the broad areas of the main Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
In the second room you could watch a little living history-esque film about the Anglo-Saxon “princess” who is the undisputed star of this exhibition.
She was buried in a bed, which as you will later on was a very rare type of burial. Mock-up of it here:
In the next two rooms, you had these ever so slightly creepy models showing what houses and farms would have looked like at the time.
The next room had a number of Anglo-Saxon games, and a quern stone for grinding flour.
Text: “This diorama is a not to scale representation of the Royal Saxon settlement excavated at modern day Street House. It shows the unusual layout of the cemetery (including the bed burial structure), the people and buildings of the settlement itself, and a small ship lying on the beach at nearby Skinningrove, as her crew trade goods with the local inhabitants.”
tldr; The excavated cemetery is unique in the Anglo-Saxon world. It was only used for a short time, and was focused on grave 42 (bed burial) with many beautiful golden pendants also being found there.
Here you can see the remnants of the burial bed, which meant that the archaeologists and researchers could figure outwit the bed would have looked like. Unusually for a bed burial it was apparently a previously-used bed, and not one built for the occasion.
And here are the most impressive of the grave goods:
If you can’t see the text, it basically says that all the jewellery here was very rare and unusual, and this specific example is of Iron Age coins being used as part of a necklace. These were already antiques for the Anglo-Saxons, being at least 600 years old at the time, so would have been a brilliant status piece and probably very expensive, same as antiques today.
And acknowledgements of the huge amount of hard work that this exhibition has clearly taken:
Thanks for reading!