British Collection Highlights:

Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Fairford, Gloucestershire

The antiquarian and collector William Michael Wylie moved to Fairford, Gloucestershire in 1847 and became involved in the Ango-Saxon excavations in Waterslade Field at Fairford. Previous discoveries of Anglo-Saxon material had been made while quarrying for stone in 1844 and 1845 in a field called Tanner's Field. Thirty-six skeletons were uncovered at that time.

Wylie excavated the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Waterslade Field in 1850, at his own expense, and donated the finds to the Ashmolean Museum in 1865.

Fairford Graves was published by J. H. Parker of Oxford in 1852 at a cost of ten shillings, detailing the finds.

The objects below are just some of the items recovered from the excavation and are typical of the kind of objects found in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. The brooches, beads, pin and iron knife are from a female grave. The iron shield boss, spearhead, knife and shield grip are from a male grave. Nails, knives and buckets are found in both male and female graves.

Alongside the human skeletons were found bones from horses and what was probably a horse harness. Roman pottery was also found in some of the graves. Most of the skeletons had their heads to the south.

One of Wylie's descriptions of a man's grave reads:

'A warrier measuring 7 feet, quite perfect, bones of enormous size'.

A spearhead was found near the skull, a second by his side, a shield handle, studs and shield boss on the body.

A selection of brooches from Fairford are currently on display in the 'Ark to Ashmolean' gallery. Other objects from the site are also on display in the ‘England 400-1600’ gallery on the second floor alongside other early Anglo-Saxon objects.

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 (Click to enlarge)

Further Information

Wylie, W. M., Fairford Graves, 1852.

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Christine Edbury
January 2012