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Sarre Brooch

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Sarre Brooch
  • Description

    Gilt copper-alloy composite, cloisonné disc brooch, inlaid with white shell, garnets set over hatched gold foil, and panels of sheet gold decorated with filigree. It consists of three plates sandwiched together (two of copper-alloy with a silver back-plate), bound by a gold corrugated rim edged with beaded wire. Three concentric zones of ornament surround a central boss, with four satellite bosses in a cruciform arrangement between the innermost zone and rim. The central boss is of white shell, with a serrated silver collar edged with beaded wire, both originally gilt. At its centre is a flat cut garnet in a similar setting. Four strips of gilt-silver pseudo-plaitwork divide the boss into equal sections. The innermost and outer zones contained a double row of stepped cloisonné garnets, although a number in the outer zone are now lost. Each satellite boss has a zone of similar garnets around a white shell cabochon, surmounted by a cabochon garnet in a tubular gold setting, one now missing. Between each boss is a sheet gold panel, divided lengthwise into three zones, edged with beaded wire, and filled with S-shaped scrolls flanked by a line of annulets. On the back of the brooch is a garnet-inlaid copper-alloy pin with a circular head. The neck is grooved and a pin-stop projects from the shank. Around the pin-head is a gilt copper-alloy collar in the form of two chip-carved, stylised, conjoined animals. A similar collar of conjoined, opposed birds' heads with down-curving beaks surrounds the catchplate. At right angles to the pin is a safety loop. Style II pin-catch.


  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 7thC(early)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Type series

    • Avent 2
  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 67 millimetres
    • Thickness: 15 millimetres
    • Weight: 67.2 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    Kent Arch Soc loan 2007Webster & Backhouse 1991
    Found with a necklace (reg. no. 1860,1024.2).

    Cloisonné disc brooches, mainly found in east Kent, first appear in Anglo-Saxon graves in the early seventh century, replacing the paired brooches formerly in vogue, and represent a marked change in female fashion. They continued to be worn until the middle of the century, but were not buried on clothing in the latest furnished graves belonging to the proto-Christian cemeteries. Both the decorative techniques and the style, ultimately derived from Mediterranean models, were transmitted to England via the Frankish kingdoms.
    The brooch and necklace were found in 1860 in a female burial. There are discrepancies as to the exact contents of the graves in the earliest published sources, but they included an iron weaving batten, a copper-alloy pin, a purse mount, an iron knife, and a copper-alloy Byzantine bowl, a luxury item imported from the eastern Mediterranean.
    The closest parallels to the piece, all from Kent, are one presumed to be from Priory Hill, Dover, and a piece from Gilton (Avent 1975, nos 174, 175). A third brooch from Aylesford has lost all its inlays (ibid., no. 173), but all three share the same cruciform arrangement of the bosses, and inset filigree panels between two cloisonné bands. The form of the pin and catchplate on the Sarre brooch also links it to the Kingston brooch (Cat. No. 32a; National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, Liverpool Museum, inv. no. M 6226), but with its copper-alloy cloisons and coarse filigree it is by no means as technically accomplished.
    On the basis of the numismatic evidence, the coins on the necklace were probably assembled about 615, so the objects cannot have been buried before that date. It is most likely that they were deposited during the second or third decade of the seventh century.

    Select bibliography: Avent, R. 1975, ‘Anglo-Saxon Disc and Composite Brooches’, British Archaeological Reports II, Oxford, vol. I, 50-2, 71-2, vol. II, 47, no. 177; pl. 66; Rigold, S.E. 1975, The Sutton Hoo Coins in the light of the contemporary background of coinage in England, in R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford, ‘The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial’, I, 668-9, nos 54, 56, 58-9, fig. 429; Bruce-Mitford, R.L.S. 1978, ‘The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial’, vol. II, ‘Arms, Armour and Regalia’, London, 621, fig. 442b; Grierson, P. and Blackburn, M. 1986, ‘Medieval European Coinage’, I, ‘The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries)’, Cambridge, 128, 160.


  • Bibliography

    • Avent 1975 177 bibliographic details
    • Webster & Backhouse 1991 31 (a) bibliographic details
    • Marzinzik 2013 51 bibliographic details
    • Speake 1980 pl.11a-b bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G41/dc6/sC

  • Exhibition history

    2013 26 Jul-16 Oct, Germany, Paderborn, Diozesanmuseum, Christianisation of Medieval Europe
    2011 26 Mar-30 Oct, Woodbridge, Sutton Hoo Exhibition Centre, People of Sutton Hoo.
    2007 11 May-11 Sep, Maidstone, Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery, Hidden Treasures of Kent.
    2003 22 Mar-12 Oct, Woodbridge, Sutton Hoo Exhibition Centre, Far Fetched Treasures

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Excavated 1860

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number



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