The Sword in Early Mediaeval Europe
with Steve Pollington & Paul Mortimer,
at Sutton Hoo
Saturday, 31st May 2014.

A wide-ranging survey of swords in Anglo-Saxon England and Northern Europe, including their use, their manufacture and their social significance. The day will be illustrated by modern reproductions including blades made by the pattern-welding and other techniques.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England and Beyond – A survey of Anglo-Saxon swords and their contexts, including a brief look at the literature of the subject, and a review of some of the words used for swords and their parts in Old English.

11.15 – 11.45:                Coffee break

11.45 – 12.45:                Ic him þenode deoran sweorde: The Economic and Social Value of Swords – Swords’ significance in northern society, the restrictions on their use, and the economics of iron and steel production in the Anglo-Saxon Period.

12.45 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 15.00:                 Smið Sæt: The Making of Swords – A look at legendary smiths and some perceptions of actual smiths, with a review of the smiths’ pattern-welding technique, its strengths and weaknesses.

15.00 – 15.20:               Tea break

15.20 – 16.20:                Eormenlaf: The Stuff of Legend – A review of some legendary swords in Beowulf and elsewhere, and a discussion of some replica swords produced today

c.16.20:                            Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Bone, P., “The Development of Anglo-Saxon Swords from the Fifth to Eleventh Century”, in Chadwick Hawkes, S. (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1989)

Chadwick Hawkes, S. (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1989)

Ellis Davidson, H.R., The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England: Its Archaeology and Literature (Woodbridge 1962; revised 1994)

Evison, V., “The Dover Ring-sword and Other Sword-rings and Beads”, Archaeologia 101 (1967)

Gilmour, B., Developments in Iron Smithing and Decorative Welding Techniques Found in Anglo-Saxon Swords and Related Edged Weapons (Unpub. Thesis, University College London Institute of Archaeology 1990); download from Ethos

Halsall, G., Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West 450 – 900 (London. 2003)

Härke, H., “Early Saxon Weapon Burials: Frequencies, Distributions and Weapon Combinations”, in Chadwick Hawkes, S. (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1989)

Lang, J. & B.Ager, “Swords of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Periods in the British Museum: a Radiographic Study”, in Chadwick Hawkes, S. (ed.), Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1989)

Lang, J., The Rise and Fall of Pattern Welding: an investigation into the construction of pre-medieval sword blades (Unpub. PhD thesis, University of Reading 2007); download from

Mortimer, P., Woden’s Warriors; Warfare, Beliefs, Arms and Armour in Northern Europe during the 6th and 7th Centuries (Ely 2011)

Oakeshott, E., Records of the Medieval Sword (Woodbridge 1991)

Peirce, I.G., & E.Oakeshott, Swords of the Viking Age (Woodbridge 2004)

Pollington, S., The English Warrior from Earliest Times to 1066 (Hockwold-cum-Wilton 1996)

Pollington, S., L.Kerr, & B.Hammond, Wayland’s Work: Anglo-Saxon Art, Myth and Material Culture from the 4th to 7th Century (Ely 2010)

Underwood, R., Anglo-Saxon Weapons and Warfare (Oxford 2000)

Williams, A., The Sword and the Crucible: A History of the Metallurgy of European Swords up to the16th Century (Leiden 2012)

About Steve Pollington

Stephen 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. He 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 has also contributed to the prestigious Oxford Companion to Military History (2003) and Medieval Warfare: An Encyclopedia (forthcoming). For more on Stephen and his work, see his website at .

About Paul Mortimer

Paul is a retired history teacher with a life-long interest things Anglo-Saxon and military, and has commissioned many museum-quality replicas of the treasures from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial and some other important finds. He can often be seen at Sutton Hoo displaying his reproduction wargear during the summer months, and has given talks at venues such as Colchester castle, Salisbury museum, the British Library and the Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent. Woden’s Warriors, his recently completed encyclopaedic book on warfare in northern Europe during the sixth and seventh centuries, was published last year.