History beneath our feet – September 2023

Words by:
Colin Smale
Featured in:
September 2023

Colin Smale examines the legacy of Saxon artefacts found in our county.

When the Romans left our shores around 410 AD, the Saxons arrived quickly followed by the Vikings, all primarily bent on plunder.

I suppose it’s reasonable to visualise half a dozen raiding Viking or Saxon ships approaching our Lincolnshire shores but a quick glance into the pages of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle jolts our imagination.

Let’s take a look at the entry for 1069 AD: “Soon thereafter three sons of King Swein with two hundred and forty ships came from Denmark into the Humber…” – two hundred and forty raiding ships!  

The mighty River Humber has always been a liquid highway for maritime raiders, especially when raiding Lincoln or York, so let’s have a look at some coins and artefacts from this unstable period that have been unearthed in Lincolnshire.

Saxon penny of King Cnut
Here is a wonderful looking hammered silver penny of King Cnut found near Laceby [PIC 2]. It is known as a “short cross” type and the king is holding a sceptre. He seems chiefly to have been remembered as sitting on the seashore demanding the tide to stop but it is likely that he did this to show his subjects that he was a mere king and not God. The short cross on the reverse of this coin would indicate he was a Christian.

A message from the Saxons
Three hundred and sixty plus years of Roman occupation means a lot of lost coins. Many of them are found today with holes in them as seen in these pictures.

It seems to me that some of the Saxons must have hated the Romans so much that they let their feelings for them be known by taking a Roman coin, placing it so the emperor faced the mud and then drilled a hole in it so they could wear this symbol of hate around their neck – the emperor ever facing downwards!

I have seen numerous Saxon coins like this and I can’t think what else this might have signified.

The emperors on the two coins included here [PICS 3 and 4] are Claudius Gothicus, who ruled from 268-270 and Allectus, usurper-emperor 293-296.

Finger ring
This simple copper alloy ring found near the Belmont transmitter after a crop of peas had been harvested [PIC 1] would have been worn by a Saxon or a Viking; both had similar ‘ring-and-dot’ designed rings, but were sometimes fashioned in gold. What did the owner look like? What was he doing when he lost this ring – fighting or farming? Such artefacts do fire up the imagination, don’t they?

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