Robert Webley

Conquest and continuity: characterising portable metalwork in Late Saxon and Anglo-Norman England, AD 900-1200

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

A characterisation of metalwork in the period of the 10th to 12th centuries AD to assess the reasons for changes in metalworking practices, including the Norman Conquest.

Start Date: October 2012
End Date: September 2018
Theme: Objects, meanings and knowledge, Technologies, materials and innovation
Research discipline: Archaeology
Locations: Europe, UK
Staff member: Michael Lewis
Department: Department of Department of Prehistory and Europe
University and department: Department of Archaeology, University of York
University supervisor: Steven Ashby, Aleksandra McClain

Is a relative lack of metal items of the 11th/12th centuries real?

A wholesale appraisal of dating of metal items from this period will reveal whether any are being dated too early (use) or too late (manufacture).

Can any changes in metalworking be attributed to the Normans?

Patterning will be established according to morphology, raw materials used and decorative treatment, and reasons behind them sought.

How did metalwork vary across Britain in this period?

Having achieved better chronological resolution, finds will be mapped in time and space to analyse this.

About my research

This research is predicated on an apparent dearth of metalwork datable to the 11th and 12th centuries and whether reasons should be sought in the impact of the Norman Conquest or elsewhere.

Changes in metal items will be charted through time and space, and the impact of the Conquest thereby measured. This requires a reappraisal of artefact dating by interrogating the latest excavated data, and using objects produced in other materials.

Stirrup-strap mount (image courtesy of the Portable Antiquities Scheme)

Aims of my research

This research aims to:

  • Clarify the dating of metalwork items common to the late early-medieval/medieval period.
  • Characterise changes in this period of raw materials used, decorative treatment, and (social) contextual association, both in time and space.
  • Assess the impact of the Norman Conquest in the socio-cultural and socio-economic spheres through changes (or lack of) in metalwork.
  • Assess the significance of metalwork in the social discourse of this period.


Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium, May 2014, Durham: ‘Still strange beast? Observations on English metalwork in the Urnes style.’

Society for Lincolnshire Archaeology and History Archaeology Day, October 2014: ‘Norman Lincolnshire: Portable Material Culture in the 11th and 12 Centuries.'


Webley, R. and Burnett, L. (2013) ‘Some unusual late 9th- to 12th-century copper-alloy strap-ends or chapes’, in J. Naylor (ed) ‘Portable Antiquities Scheme report for 2012’, Medieval Archaeology, 57, 275-278.

Webley, R. (2014) ‘Stirrup-strap mounts’, in J. Naylor (ed) ‘Portable Antiquities Scheme report for 2013’, Medieval Archaeology, 58, 353-356.