After the gold rush

There was gold in them that hills..

I’ve though about this one quite carefully, and can’t see any reason not to share it with the readers to see what they think. Some weeks ago, reader Andy Dennis wrote to me, posing an interesting question about the location of the Staffordshire Hoard. I give advance warning that I know little about the Staffordshire Hoard, and although I’m interested in it and it’s history, I’m largely pragmatic over the artefacts found down on the Warrenhouse. I have, of course, posted of my support for Brian Stringer’s project for a monument, and of my bewilderment at some of the civic and amateur attitudes to this remarkable find. However, my knowledge of the time period and history concerned is scant.

I know there are many readers for who the Hoard is a fascination, so I’d be interested to hear what people engaged with the story and the history have to say. Andy makes some interesting points, so I just thought I’d toss this out there and see what you guys have to say…

Andy posed this question:

Hello Bob

I watched Channel 4’s ‘analysis’ of the Saxon Gold last evening. I was astonished that in their search for a context (why here?) in the landscape no mention was made of Crane Brook. Sure, today it’s little more than a dribble, but imagine what it would be like today, with the rain we’ve had recently, without interception by reservoir and canal. In Saxon times this would either have been a significant obstacle or a substantial Roman-built crossing, possibly some sort of causeway and culvert. Either way, as a way of pinpointing the knoll where the treasure was found it would have been very useful, especially if the intention was to explain its location to someone not present at the burial. The site also commands views along a considerable stretch of the Watling Street and could have been a good base from which to ambush travellers as they crossed the brook, though I accept the archaeology doesn’t support an argument for more than this one event.

The route from Lichfield to Wolverhampton also diverted from Watling Street west of the brook; the old Brownhills Road. Both Hammerwich and Ogley Hay existed at the time and there must have been a convenient route between them. Could that be the old footpath from Church Lane to Watling Street? Whatever, there must have been more than just the Roman road by which to locate the site and we can be sure the Crane Brook was around at the time.

Am I missing something here?


Some people have curious theories about the Staffordshire Hoard. Sadly they seem to become quite irritated when asked to explain them…

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19 Responses to After the gold rush

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    Thanks, Bob. I am interested to see what people with local knowledge think. Of course, you have to try to imagine the landscape before canal, railway, mororway, the dual carriageway that is now the A5 and before enclosure for more modern farming. Not easy!

  2. pedro says:

    I have only had a quick look at this post, and I do not know a great deal about the area, but the question concerning Crane Brook is interesting.

    About the time that the Staffs Hoard was found I was talking to a friend who is quite knowledgeable about Anglo-Saxon History. It has been a bit of an ambition to try to walk around the Saxon boundary that was given to Wulfruna by Ethelred around 980AD, essentially Wolverhampton.

    Now in this boundary charter, and other charters, several brooks are mentioned. An example is Penn Brook along which the boundary follows for some way. In Anglo-Saxon it is called the “loud stream”.

    There is an author of a few books on the Staffs area in those times, Della Hooke, who is very clued up. I am sure that the Brook would be used in many way including a way of mapping the landscape.

    All the best Pedro

  3. Pat says:

    What interesting finds would Knaves Castle shown up had it not been scrubbed off the landscape to build houses ,That too would have been important by the side of the A5 & of a good hight to see right over to wall.

  4. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    I was somewhat surprised that the tv programme seemd to gloss over this..I spent a delightfully thrilling week sitting in a pillbox counting and recording passing traffic for a County HIghways traffic count many years ago. My colleague and I passed the “down” time trying to imagine how the Roman Road must have looked, with a possible ford or bridge/ culvert over Crane brook, just down from where we were. We were stationed just across the road from the treasure hillock. Thanks, Andy, you are making a very important point. What professional archeological investigations, if any, have ( ever ) been carried out there?

  5. Pedr says:

    Just come across a book via British Library app for iphone, called the History of Walsall and its neighbourhood, written in 1887 by a chap called Wilmore. He begins with the early history pre-Roman and says this…

    …and we have one of their principle thoroughfares near here, in the old Chester Road, and beyond Brownhills is known as the Welsh Way. Near the New Mills is an ancient road leading form Wednesbury and leading through Caldmore to the foot of the Church Hill, and thence down Rushall Street to Wall. Another old way runs from Aldridge; thence it may be followed to Knaves Castle and on to the old camp at Beaudesert…

    …another old work called Knave’s Castle. It is described as having been a small tumulus enclosed between three ditches and having an entrance on the south side, and hollowed at the top. But all is now changed, mound and ditch have now disappeared, leaving only a slight unevenness of the ground, it’s bastions are formed by hay ricks. It stood near the Watling Street, and it’s origins and uses have been subject of speculation. In the time of Plot it was thought to have been so infested with robbers that a watch had to be stationed to guard strangers over it, repaid by a small gratuity.

  6. Rich Burnell says:

    Is Julian Ward-Davies a traffic warden?

    • pedro says:

      I have just read the whole post, and Mr. Hart-Davis is a bit touchy is he not!

      I think I shall coin a new name for Stonnall history… the “Stonnall Shootings and Suicide Sensation of 1879”.

      (Sorry the above name should read Mr. Hard-Davis, I confused it with someone off the telly.)

      • pedro says:

        Sorry again the it should read Mr. Hard-Davies. I just don’t know how i’d get on if i had two names.

  7. Rich Burnell says:

    …no offence to traffic wardens intended

  8. Barry Carpenter says:

    OK Guys, anyone interested in the reports on the Staffs Hoard. They have been publish on the PAS Web site here

    As it happens I’m in the same Metal Detecting club as Terry the finder so I’ve taken a special interest in this.

  9. Barry Carpenter says:

    A spacific paper regarding the landscape of the area.

  10. Pedro says:

    Hi Barry you just beat me to it!

    Just to add that Crane Brook is mentioned!

  11. Barry Carpenter says:

    I also believe that there where some digs around Hammerwich looking for the Anglo Saxon habitation area. I know that one piece of female AS Gold jewellery was found just to the north of the A5 opposite the Hoard site a few years ago. This is now housed in Stoke on Trent Museum.

  12. Barry Carpenter says:

    A link to an image of the above AS jewellery. The Bloxwich Reasearch and Metal Detecting Club.

  13. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    please.a big thankyou to Barry Carpenter for the links. I now have an authoritative definition of what a “Hay” was…..and much, much more.

    • Hi folks

      I’d just like to say thanks to all the contributors to this post – Barry in particular. It’s been so illuminating to read the papers by the historians involved, which I never was aware of until he pointed them out. Likewise, to the Hammerwich find and to Pedro for the hat tip to the British Library app and a wonderful contribution.

      To Pat, I’d say don’t blame the houses for the loss of Knave’s Castle. I seem to recall reading that it was gone way before the houses (and I think Arthur Mee stated such, but don’t hold me to that please, the book is on a very high shelf and it’s late) so I think that like it’s curious mate, Offlow, it was lost to agriculture long ago.

      Cheers everyone


  14. jim says:

    The thing I find so intriguing about the hoard is that as war booty probably from the north Wales area on its way back to the Mercian capital Tamworth why did it never get there? Why was it buried just 10 miles away it was buried purposely for good reason and for recovery later.
    My theory is that whoever buried it stashed it after being called back west along Watling Street to fight another battle and was killed in action the threat must have been pretty immediate and close to turn so quickly I’d guess some kind of skirmish could have taken place on Watling street between brownhills and Telford.

  15. Barry Carpenter says:

    Like wise, it could have been taken from the other direction on its way back to Wales. Unless they find positive proof of the orignal owner and the last person to handle it, I guess that we may never know. But then thats part of the fun of speculation!

    Thanks Bob.

  16. Jim says:

    True Barry the best thing about it is the speculation it could have been going the other way but considering the Mercian reputation I can’t help but think the gold was heading for them rather than away from them, I would also think logically it would have been processed for melting e.g. the garnets removed if it had been coming from Tamworth but it appears to be in a freshly looted state and overwhelmingly military in origin and not mixed with civilian type artifacts.

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