First Steps in Old English
with Stephen Pollington &
Maria Legg (Independent Scholars)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 5th December, 2015.


This will be a beginner’s guide to the wonders of the Old English language and its literature. Starting with the rudiments of the language and its written forms, we shall analyse some sample texts, not just for the excitement of reading words written so many centuries ago, for example by Alfred the Great himself, but also to unlock the beauty of the language in action. Finally, there will be an opportunity to reflect on the echoes of the Old English language in current forms of English.

Provisional Programme
09.50 – 10.15: Coffee on arrival
10.15 – 11.15: The Old English Language – An Introduction – An overview of the Old English language and how it works.
11.15 – 11.40: Coffee break
11.40 – 12.40: Some Old English Texts – Read Old English from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a leechdom, a land-grant.
12.40 – 14.00: Lunch break
14.00 – 14.50: A Conversation – Follow Ælfric chatting to various workmen.
14.50 – 15.10: Tea break
15.10 – 16.00: Echoes – Aspects of the Old English language which are still with us, such as place-names.
c.16.00: Thanks and Close

About Stephen Pollington
Stephen 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, from local history to the details of verse metre, from theories of the origins of the Germanic runes to the handling of Anglo-Saxon weaponry. Stephen 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 and his line. He has also contributed to the prestigious 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 .

About Maria Legg
Maria Legg has been passionate about history ever since she was a child. She has been involved with historical re-enactment and living history for many years, with a particular emphasis on the 6th and 7th centuries and their culture and language. The love affair with Old English started in 1990 when she first read “The Warrior’s Way” and was introduced to the famous poem, “The Battle of Maldon”. Maria provided the voice of Æþelflæd, “The Lady of the Mercians”, for Michael Wood’s BBC production “King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons” and also the many female voices in the audio language lessons which accompanied Matt Love’s book, “Learn Old English with Leofwin”.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading:
Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)
Mitchell, B., & F.Robinson, A Guide to Old English (Blackwell 1986-2001)
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)
Whitelock, D., Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Reader (Oxford 1967)

Feedback: At previous Study day by Stephen, when asked what was best about the day people said:

  • Everything – really enjoyed it
  • Stephens style! The progression from intro to examples was just right.  Format & sessions a perfect length – refreshments great
  • Fascinating.  Opening up minds to understanding why we say what we say
  • Enjoyed all of it
  • Friendly atmosphere
  • Not academically stuffy
  • Enthusiasm of speaker/organiser/students
  • Informative & light-hearted
  • Slides and bits of Anglo Saxon literature
  • Enthusiasm of speaker.  Range of coverage