Anglo-Saxon Strap Ends

23rd December 2017 — 21 Comments

An Anglo-Saxon zoomorphic strap-end of Thomas Class A, Type 1. The attachment end is split to accommodate the strap, and has two rivet holes.

In my early years of detecting, and like most others who take up the hobby, I was totally inexperienced, a greenhorn. A seasoned detectorist friend at the time invited me on to one of his permissions and I found the artefact shown below, not knowing what it was.

For reasons I didn’t understand at the time he was seriously dischuffed; disgruntled, ill-humoured and not at all pleased. I was in the dark and didn’t understand why he was acting in that way. It turned out that he had searched that field many times and hadn’t found anything so significant. He didn’t take me out again. 🙁

What I had found was an Anglo-Saxon Style Trewhiddle Strap End. Why “Trewhiddle’ Style? In 1774 one of the most important finds of metalwork and coins of the Christian Saxon period, was discovered by miners looking for tin at Trewhiddle in Cornwall. Many of the artefacts were decorated with stylised animals, a feature of Anglo-Saxon art which has since become known as Trewhiddle style decoration.

© JW

A strap end is defined, in the very broadest terms, as an artefact used to stop fraying at the end of a strap or belt and to weight it down. As such, if complete, the object must show some clear signs of attachment features, such as rivets or rivet holes, which fastened it to the strap. Strap-ends acted as terminals.

Strap end and buckle showing how they were attached to the belt. Courtesy of jelldragon

These terminals often offered a focus for artistic embellishment, which, in accordance with contemporary tastes for zoomorphic decoration, were often fashioned into animal heads seen from above, though simple, curved forms were also used.

Dr Gabor Thomas of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London, submitted a 537 page thesis for his Doctor of Philosophy degree. That was in 2000. Everything you need to know about strap ends can be seen by clicking HERE. Pictures appear from page 488 onwards. Good luck.

When I found the strap end it was recorded soon afterwards on the UKDFD:

Copper-alloy strap-end with split terminal and two iron rivets still in situ. The zoomorphic terminal has a short snout the nostrils marked by an inlaid triangle and drilled eye sockets that may once have held glass insets. Above the eyes are two inlaid chevron lines and the rounded ears are divided by a raised piriform or wedge shape. The central panel has a classic Trewhiddle animal design of a single quadruped, the limbs interlaced and with backward-facing head, the whole inlaid. Between this panel and the rivets is another small panel containing a stylised palmette. This strap-end is Thomas Class A, Type 1: Trewhiddle style.

Rather than sitting in a dusty drawer in my home I made the decision to donate the strap end to a museum in Gloucestershire (where it now resides hidden away in one of their drawers, I suspect). I delivered the artefact personally to the curator, who made lots of nice noises and seemed grateful.

Then I sat back and awaited my tribute in the form of a certificate. Alas, it never arrived. I realise now that, in my eagerness to please, I had circumvented the system, and failed to read the small print.

Small Print … Finders and landowners may state that they do not wish to claim a reward at any stage in the treasure process, either before or after inquest, in order to be eligible to receive the certificate.

All I have now is the UKDFD record  (in the same dusty drawer) reminding this old duffer of his find of the year! Come to think, I’ve never seen one of those certificates, although they must exist. Have you? I would love to add one to this blog post.


A Fine Example from the PAS Database

Thomas Class A Strap End – © PAS


A page from the next Searcher magazine – available in shops from Friday 29 December


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21 responses to Anglo-Saxon Strap Ends

  1. Hi John
    In the early 1990’s I spent three months on an old goldfield in northern New South Wales, Australia. During that time I found several interesting artefacts and decided to donate them to the local museum. I was introduced to a gentleman who was a member of the local historical society and he was very pleased to accept the items on behalf of the society. Imagine my disbelief when I visited the museum several years later and saw them displayed with a note attributing the finds to that very same person. Ah, the naivety of a a novice Detectorist.

  2. Ah yes… the [in]famous museum double speak!!! LOL.. I have done that too John.. Donated a very rare item to the museum, only to have it ‘disappear’ in the bowels somewhere [supposedly].. I have a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth about that sort of thing.

    All that being said, a wonderful article on the strap ends. I have found belt buckle ends… but of course, we will never find anything of that quality over here,

    Many thanks for this my friend.

    May you have the best of Christmases.


  3. I had some contact with strap ends here in Australian schools but of a different type to the one John found.
    I wonder when they dismantled our Technical school did they find the teachers strap i threw under our classroom many years ago. 🙂

  4. Morning John,Once in a while strap ends from this era and others pop up.

    The one you have chosen to illustrate being a exceptionally good example.

    The Saxons were very artistic people.

    Happy Xmas to you and Mrs John.

  5. Even being issued with the museum certificate does not guarantee that the finds will be displayed or stored securely.
    My now deceased good friend Ian Postlethwaite donated a small hoard of Anglo Saxon Sceats to a local North East museum which was put on display and it was 5 – 6 years later when he took a cousin from abroad to the N. E. museum to show him Ians donated hoard he found that his coins were no longer on display so Ian showed his certificate and asked one of the museum attendants if he could bring out his donated coins to show his cousin, after a while the attendant brought back Ians hoard but minus 12 coins and the attendant made all sorts of excuses but to cut a long story short the lost coins never ever showed up again they had gone on walk about.

  6. Fifteen years ago a member of our detecting club found a large silver Saxon strap end of the Trewhiddle type, it was declared as treasure, given a wonderful glowing descriptive report from the British Museum and quite a high valuation. Five years later I found an identical one although missing the tip, from the same field. The report from the British Museum on this occasion was brief to the point of almost being dismissive of my find which resulted in a very low valuation. I was pleased that it was acquired by a local museum to be seen by everyone but the report took away some of the glow in finding it. I suppose the BM had seen so many Saxon silver strapends found by detectorists in that five year period, they had become weary of producing reports for them. Oh well, perhaps my next find (please Santa) of Saxon gold may impress them a bit more.

  7. wonderful read john and a great link to the book as well ….hope you and mrs john have a lovely xmas

  8. A great read John and it is nice to see you on the Kings Of Mercia forum, thank you for that.

    All the very best to you and your family at Christmas and a Happy New Year



    • Thank you, Richard. My analytics told me that people were coming from KOMMDC to have a look at my blog. Being curious, I signed up to check you out!

      Seasonal Greetings to you and yours!

  9. had the opposite experience. in the early 70’s I would take all my finds to my local Museum who would catalogue them and return them. One particular coin an Anglo-Romano dupondius was what Mr.Seaby described as an interesting find. I was going to donate it but a fellow detectorist told me it would only gather dust in a drawer so I kept it. Now I can’t find it!

  10. I love strap ends, so I was very pleased to read this.
    I think you told me this story a while back. I have found a couple of saxon strap ends in UK, all of them I have donated along with a lot of other artifacts.

    I have a certificate from Bedford Museum, and I can send a picture of it if you like.

    // Michael

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