- Museum number
Copper-alloy cast open-bowl censer with flat base, and rim of openwork arches on rectangular bases, standing on three engraved lines encircling the bowl. The body of the bowl is divided by triple incised lines into six vertical panels. The suspension chains (now lost) were fixed to three upward-pointing animal heads riveted to the rim; these have stubby muzzles, prominent lentoid eyes, rounded ears and comma-shaped stylised manes. Their foreheads have incised decoration inlaid with niello.
- Production date
Diameter: 105 millimetres
Height: 88 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Webster & Backhouse 1991
The censer was formerly in the collection of Lord Hastings: according to an associated parchment label, it was found in North Elmham in 1786 “at a place called Tower Ditches on ye west side next the church”. This can be identified as the site of the Anglo-Saxon church at North Elmham as first recognised by Rigold (Rigold 1962-3), and known to have been in existence between 803 and 840. The discarding of the censer, which presumably came from the adjacent ecclesiastical site, may perhaps be associated with Danish incursions in East Anglia in the 840s and later in the ninth century. Its decoration is clearly linked to the arcaded and zoomorphic-headed decoration of the Ethilwald seal-die (1822,1214.1), an object independently dated to the mid ninth century, and also from East Anglia: the animal's heads also recall, in their round ears and comma-shaped manes, the animal-head terminals of both main types of ninth-century strap-ends. It is perhaps also of chronological interest that they closely resemble the sculptured animal heads seen on hood-mouldings in the tower and west doorway of the blocked chancel arch at Deerhurst Church, Glos (see fig. 27, Webster & Bakchouse 1991, p. 241).
Bibliography: Rigold, S.E. 1962-3, The Anglian Cathedral of North Elmham, Norfolk, ‘Medieval Archaeology’ 6-7, 71, fn. 22; Cramp, R.J. 1989, ‘Anglo-Saxon Connections’, Durham, cat. 33.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2013 26 Jul-16 Oct, Germany, Paderborn, Diozesanmuseum, Christianisation of Medieval Europe
2008 15 Mar-2 Nov, Suffolk, Woodbridge, Sutton Hoo Visitor Centre, 'East Anglia: The Life and Death of a Kingdom'
2004-2005 29 Mar-29 Mar, Norwich Castle Museum, 'Anglo-Saxon & Viking Gallery'
1989 23 Jun-31 Aug, Durham Cathedral, Anglo Saxon Connections
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number