The Forgotten History of St Bótwulf (Botolph)
with Dr Sam Newton (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo on Saturday, 17th June, 2017.

On his festival-day in medieval calendars, we shall see what we can retrieve of the largely forgotten history of this famous but little known saint, one of the great medieval protectors of travellers, through the literature, art, archaeology, and landscapes associated with him and his cult.

According to The Life of St Ceolfrith, Bede’s mentor St Ceolfrith visited “Abbot Botwulf” in East Anglia around the year 670, “proclaimed on all sides to be a man of unparalleled life and learning, and full of the grace of the Holy Spirit; and he returned home abundantly instructed…”. We shall see that this high ecclesiastical reputation related to his fame as a pioneer of Benedictine monasticism in England at a place to which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers as Ican Hó.  We shall weigh the evidence for its most likely location on the former island on which the church of St Botolph at Iken in Suffolk now stands.  We shall also consider St Botulf’s reputation as an exorcist and as a patron saint of travellers, especially those crossing water.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                St Bótwulf and the Wuffings

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                St Bótwulf ‘s Minster

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 St Bótwulf the Exorcist

14.50 – 15.10:                Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                The Cult of St Bótwulf

c.16.00:                            Thanks and Close

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 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 (now Arts’ Society), and a Director of the Wuffing Education Study-Day Partnership at Sutton Hoo.


When asked ‘What was best about the day?’ at a previous Study Day on St Bótwulf people said:

  • Sams infectious enthusiasm
  • Great slides
  • Enjoyed all of it
  • Information on Iken
  • Excellent sessions and brilliant images and maps.
  • Old English
  • Sams relaxed informative manner
  • Hard to pick highlights. It was all so good I was replete with knowledge by the end.  Just hope I remember it all.


Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Mayr-Harting. H., The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (London 1972)

Newton, S., “The Forgotten History of St Bótwulf (Botolph)”, The Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 43 (2016), pp. 521-50, or online at

Rackham, O., A History of the Countryside (London 1986).

Scarfe, Norman., “St Botolph, The Iken Cross, and the Coming of East Anglian Christianity”, Suffolk in the Middle Ages (Boydell 1986), pp.39-51.

Shippey, T.A. (ed.), The Shadow-walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, Series V,  291)

Stevenson, F.S. “St Botolph (Botwulf) and Iken”, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 18 (1924), pp.30-52.

West, S.E., N.Scarfe, & R.Cramp, “Iken, St Botolph, and the Coming of East Anglian Christianity”, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, XXXV (1984), pp.279-301.