The Vikings in East Anglia
April 2022

'New evidence of the Viking Age in East Anglia' - Dr Tim Pestell (Senior Curator of Archaeology at Norfolk Museums Service)

Tim is the Curator of Archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum. Fewer members than usual attended our April meeting but they settled down to an evening where Tim gave us an insight in to the Vikings who invaded Norfolk and beyond.

Ancient history is hard to evaluate, following the departure of the Romans in 410. A mix of Tribes from Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands made their way across the North Sea and settled Angle-Land (England). The three largest groups were the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes.

The Vikings who travelled in their long boats, came from Scandinavia and made their first raids in 793.  The ‘Great Heathen Army’ referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, invaded in the year 865.  Their intent was to conquer the four Kingdoms of East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex.

Edmund was King of East Anglia until his death in 869. The Martyrdom of Edward and his sad remains were translated to where we know today as Bury-St-Edmunds.  Twenty years after Edmund’s death 'moneyers' working for the Viking kings started to reproduce replicas of coins minted during his reign. 

We looked at the evidence from Hoards of treasure dug up from all over East Anglia.  The study of comparing coins minted by a moneyer gives a strong indication as to where they came from and who was being represented on the coins.  Tim with all his expertise is able to date the coins and so we begin to piece together when and where the Vikings settled.  Trefoil broaches were worn by women from Scandinavia and have been found in Norfolk dated to the 9th and 10th centuries.  Originally the design and manufacturer of these objects originated in Scandinavia but over time their designs became more English and were produced here.  The St Peter hoard of 924 from Morley St Peter, unearthed South West of Norwich included Arabic Coins.  In Attleborough finds such as Thor’s hammers have been discovered and these are believed to have pagan origins.  Treasure from Great Ryburgh included weights used for trading purposes.  The Bredfield brooch is a rare large piece of jewellery of the 11th century from the Isle of Ely.  There have only been fifteen such discovered across the British Isles.

Following the defeat of the Anglo Saxons the Vikings began to settle amongst the North-folk and the South-folk with larger settlements in Thetford and Ely.  By 879 they were firmly established throughout East Anglia.

What of Martham? It is thought that we were, perhaps, the original centre of the Flegg area for the Vikings - it is after all a place where they could have first landed.  However very little evidence of Viking settlements exists locally.  There are of course tantalising clues that the Vikings were in our area.  Strong enough for Ormesby St. Margaret to adopt a village sign showing a Viking long ship.

It was an evening of intrigue, comparison and ancient history which led to the emergence of the Kingdom of England by the 10th century.

Janet Edwards

Yarm helmet from Preston Park Museum

Above: the Yarm helmet from Preston Park Museum
Below: village sign: Ormesby St Margaret

Village sign Ormesby
CogReturn to home page