Great square-headed brooch

Early Anglo-Saxon, early 6th century AD
From Grave 22, Chessell Down, Isle of Wight

This fine silver-gilt and niello brooch is perhaps the most beautiful of all surviving great square-headed brooches. The casting reveals an artist in complete mastery of his material and current art styles. The brooch was found by George Hillier in 1855 in the grave of a woman, together with two stamped pendants, a pair of tweezers, and iron knife and a waist buckle. It was probably made in the first quarter of the sixth century.

The brooch is the best example of a small group of brooches that reflect southern Scandinavian influence. Like its Scandinavian predecessors, it was cast in silver and then gilt on its front surface. The piece has close stylistic parallels with objects found in Kent, although large square-headed brooches are not typical Kentish types.

The outer border of the head-plate is decorated with scrolls on the sides and two Style I quadrupeds with long ears and humanoid feet at the centre. Scrolls and disembodied Style I body parts fill the rest of the headplate field within borders of stamped and nielloed triangles. The bow is plain. The footplate below the bow is decorated with face masks in the side lobes and another larger face mask in the centre below two Style I heads.

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Great square-headed brooch

  • Fastening clothing

    Fastening clothing


More information


C.J. Arnold, The Anglo-Saxon cemeteries on (London, The British Museum Press, 1982)

E.T. Leeds, A corpus of early Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1949)

J. Hines, A new corpus of Anglo-Saxon gr (Woodbridge, Boydell for the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1997)

R.A. Smith, A guide to the Anglo-Saxon and (London, British Museum, 1923)


Length: 13.800 cm
Width: 6.650 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1867,7-29,5


Collected by Lord Otho Fitzgerald


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