Old English Language and Literature
with Steve Pollington and Sam Newton (Independent Scholars)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 26th November 2016.


An introductory study-day which also provides an opportunity to become further acquainted with the Old English language and its earliest surviving literature. Participants will be encouraged to utter some short texts in the original tongue.

Hitherto will our sparkeful Youth laugh at their great grandfathers’ English, who had more care to do well, than to speak minion-like, and left more glory to us… than we shall do by our forging anew words, and uncuth phrases.  Great verily was the glory of our tongue before the Norman  Conquest… William Camden (1551-1623), Remains Concerning Britain, ed. R.D.Dunn (Toronto 1984), p.27.

 Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                The Old English Language – A starter session intended to acquaint participants with the Old English language and how it works.

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                The Word-Hoard of Verse – An introduction to the ancient genre of English poetic art using and passages of heroic and elegiac verse.

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 Some Old English Texts – Read Old English from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a leechdom, a land-grant.

14.50 – 15.10:                Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                The Forgotten Legends of Old England – An attempt to chart what we can of the lost continent of Old English legend.

c.16.00:                            Thanks and Close

About Stephen Pollington

Steve Pollington has been writing books on Anglo-Saxon England for two decades. His many published titles include works on the Old English language, military culture, healing and herblore, runes, and feasting in the ‘meadhall’, as well as a double CD of readings in Old English.  He has lectured widely on aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture since 1991 and has worked on a number of television and radio programmes, and was script advisor to the ground-breaking “1000 AD”, in which dramatic dialogue was spoken entirely in Old English and Old Norse. He provided the voice of the Chronicle for Michael Wood’s three-part series on Alfred the Great. He has also contributed to the Oxford Companion to Military History (2003) and Medieval Warfare: An Encyclopedia (2009). Current research projects include the adoption of literacy in the Germanic Iron Age.  For more on Stephen and his work, see his website at www.stevepollington.com/

About Dr Sam Newton

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991.  He published his first book, The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia in 1993, and his second, The Reckoning of King Rædwald: the Story of the King linked to the Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial in 2003. He has lectured widely around the country as an independent scholar and has contributed to many radio and television programmes over the years, especially Time Team.  He is a tutor for Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, an accredited NADFAS lecturer, and a Director of the Wuffing Education Study-Day Partnership at Sutton Hoo.


At previous Study Days by Steve and Sam when asked “What was best about the day? People said:

  • The humour was great . It made it very easy to remember things and learn more.  Well worth the journey!
  • Relationship with modern English
  • Manageable, engaging – chance to try saying it out loud.
  • Hearing OE spoken along with the text. Excellent speakers, as always, very happy to answer questions throughout the day
  • The handouts and the slides. Reading out the OE was particularly helpful
  • Bite-size pieces of information, reassurance that its not so hard, Steve’s broad knowledge
  • Friendly atmosphere
  • Not academically stuffy
  • Stephens style! The progression from intro to examples was just right.  Format & sessions a perfect length – refreshments great
  • Enthusiasm of speaker.  Range of coverage
  • Fascinating.  Opening up minds to understanding why we say what we say

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

  • Alexander, M., Old English Literature  (Macmillan 1983)
  • Alexander, M.  (tr.), Beowulf: A Glossed Text (Penguin Classics 1995, 2000)
  • Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)
  • Baugh, A.C., & T.Cable, A History of the English Language (3rd edition, London 1978)
  • Clark Hall, J.R., & H.D.Meritt, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Cambridge 1962)
  • Heaney, Seamus (tr.) Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition, ed. J.Niles (Norton 2007)
  • Lee, S.D., & E.Solopova, The Keys of Middle-earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien (Palgrave Macmillan 2005)
  • Mitchell, B., & F.Robinson, A Guide to Old English (Blackwell 1986-2001)
  • Newton, S., The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (Brewer 1993-2004)
  • Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald (Redbird 2003)
  • Pollington, S., Wordcraft: a concise dictionary and thesaurus, modern English to Old English (Anglo-Saxon Books 1993)
  • Pollington, S., Wordcraft: a concise dictionary and thesaurus, modern English to Old English (Anglo-Saxon Books 1993)
  • Pollington, S., First Steps in Old English (Anglo-Saxon Books 2006)
  • Shippey, T.A., Old English Verse (London 1972)
  • Shippey, T.A., The Road to Middle-earth (Allen and Unwin, 1982; rev. edn HarperCollins, 2003)
  • Wilson, R., The Lost Literature of Medieval England (Methuen 1952, 1970)