Saturday 7 October 2023

Rare medieval Cheddar brooch found in Somerset field to go on display

A detail of the Cheddar brooch after conservation work.
Photograph: Museum of Somerset

When it emerged from the earth it was dull, corroded and battered, the centuries it had spent lying beneath a Somerset field having taken their toll.

Now restored and gleaming, the Cheddar brooch, a rare early medieval piece regarded as one of the most important finds of its kind, is going on display at a museum close to where it was found by a metal detectorist.

Dating from about AD800 to 900, the large silver and copper alloy disc brooch hails from a time when the survival of Saxon Wessex was in doubt and Athelney on the Somerset Levels provided a refuge for King Alfred the Great.

Interlaced animal and plant designs in bright silver and black niello – usually a mixture, of sulphur, copper, silver and lead – are set against a gilded back panel. The animals represented include wyverns – dragon-like creatures with two legs, wings and long tails that would later become a symbol of Wessex.

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