- Museum number
Iron sword that has been removed from its copper-alloy scabbard. The sword is 550 mm long, but lacks the tip of the blade and much of the tang. The blade is now 526 mm long and 36 mm wide some 30 mm from the damaged top. Although corroded, it seems to have a midrib rather than a median ridge. There is a slight taper to about 460 mm from the top, then it tapers more sharply towards the (missing) point. One edge of the lower part of the blade (from about 385 mm) is much more corroded than elsewhere. The tang is rather flat, is rectangular in section, and is now short (20 mm long) and stubby, though its present top is burred. The shoulders are straight, but meet the tang at an angle, one more so than the other. There is a cast brass hilt end, which is straight at the bottom, 50 mm long, 19 mm high and up to 14 mm wide. It slots loosely over the tang, leaving a space of about 1 mm on all sides at the top, and the burred stump of the tang projects only about 3 mm. The hilt end has rounded terminal mouldings, one defined on top and on both sides by a cordon, the other has a cordon on one side only. The central part is decorated with two notched ribs (in part quite worn) that follow the top and bottom edges on both sides.
The front plate of the scabbard is in good condition and slides easily from the overlapping back plate. It is 548 mm long and flares slightly at the top to 40 mm wide, and is undecorated apart from two bordering grooves near the tip, which presumably mark the inner edges of the chape, and a couple of transverse lines in one border, 32 and 35 mm from the end. There are many clear hammer facets on the inside, and there is a long transverse crack about 445 mm from the top.
The back plate is now 449 mm long, and is damaged. It has overlapped the front plate with deep rounded overlaps (8 mm deep on the outside) that terminate in a wide, flat edge defined by a narrow groove. The top, for 66 mm, has broken away from the main length of scabbard plate and has lost its overlaps, but it is still attached to the loop plate. At the highest point it can be measured, some 95 mm from the top, the scabbard is 39 mm wide. There are many hammer facets on the inside, and there have been recent attempts to repair the plate with solder at the top and bottom. The central suspension loop is 222-255 mm from the top. The loop itself is 35 mm long, 33 mm wide and stands about 19 mm above the scabbard plate on the inside. It is decorated in repoussé with two broad confronted arcs, both of which have corrosion holes where the metal has been reduced in thickness. On each side, the loop plates start with rectangular panels, about 25 mm long and 28 mm wide, secured by two rivets with crude projecting heads and marked by grooves defining shallow, notched ribs above and below the rivets. Marks in the patina suggest that there may have been strips of metal on the lines of the rivets. Beyond the rectangular panels, the loop plates narrow sharply to a width of only 5 mm, and are marked by two grooves defining a central notched rib. At the top, the upper loop plate expands to another rectangular panel, 32-34 mm long and up to 34 mm wide, which is undecorated apart from notched ribs top and bottom, which are defined by grooves. The full length of the upper loop plate is 222 mm. The lower loop plate follows the same design, terminating in a panel 28 mm long (crudely curved at the bottom) and 26 mm wide, with similar notched ribs top and bottom. Both terminal panels have been attached by two rivets that are clearly visible on the inside but are neatly masked on the outside. A scarf joint with an overlap of about 12 mm at the middle of the narrow strip of the lower loop plate has been secured by a rivet, from which the upper piece has now sprung clear. This maybe a repair, in which case the entire piece, loop and loop plates, would have originally been formed from a single sheet of metal; or it could be an original feature. The lower loop plate terminates about 103 mm from the end of the front plate, almost on line with its long transverse crack.
Length: 526 millimetres (blade)
Length: 449 millimetres (scabbard back plate)
Length: 548 millimetres (scabbard front plate)
Length: 550 millimetres
Width: 36 millimetres (blade)
Width: 39 millimetres (scabbard back plate)
Width: 40 millimetres (top of scabbard front plate)
- Curator's comments
- Stead 2006
Technical report on the iron sword, see p. 107. Metal analysis: brass hilt end, gunmetal suspension loop and back plate, Dungworth 1996: 419,nos 1748:a-c; Table I.
The sword and scabbard were purchased from the widow of the Rev. Leonard Hooppell, along with 13 artefacts from the Melsonby hoard, for £25. It had been found in 'about 1880 by some masons engaged in repairing a bridge at Barmton' (Read 1895:5). The British Museum Register also notes a reference in the ‘Stockton and Darlington Times’, 3 August 1905, to the effect that the sword was found in Mr William Waldy's gravel pit at Barmpton near Darlington. In a letter to Greenwell dated 4 December 1895, W. Lancaster Taylor, Rector of Sadberge, recorded 'it seems this sword was dug up at Barmpton, a place near here, by masons who were repairing a bridge'. John Smith, landlord of the Three Tuns at Sadberge, heard about it and probably 'secured it for some liquor' about 15 years ago, according to his daughter who also said that Dr Hooppell had bought it from Smith for £1 about 10 years ago. Taylor thought that the most appropriate home for the sword would be the vestry at Sadberge Church, but fortunately Greenwell contacted Hercules Read, who secured it for the British Museum. Read 1895: 5; Piggott 1950: 20 and 27, figs 10:1 and 11:2 (Group IV); MacGregor 1976: no. 156; Jope 2000:281, pl. 214:c.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2013 09 Apr-Present, Carlisle, Tullie House Museum, LT Loan
2009 Aug-Nov, Newcastle, Great North Museum, 'Lindow Man'
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number