Kingston Brooch card

Kingston Brooch


On display


'The Kingston Brooch' is the largest known Anglo-Saxon composite brooch. With its fine zoomorphic filigree, narrow bead and twisted-wire rim decoration, inlaid with blue glass, white shell and flat-cut garnet, the brooch is one of the finest examples of Anglo-Saxon art. It comes from grave 205 of the Kingston Barrow group in Kent. The Reverend Bryan Faussett was one of the most prolific barrow explorers of the 18th century. Over a sixteen year period he was responsible for opening roughly 750 ancient burial mounds and graves. The Kingston Brooch was excavated by Faussett’s son Henry in August 1771, while Rev. Faussett sat in his carriage suffering from a severe attack of gout. The grave goods were found with a skeleton, which Rev. Faussett identified as female because of the associated finds, including the bones of a child deposited near the feet of the skeleton. This is a composite brooch made of two plates of gold bounded together by a strip of beaded gold wire filigree, the interior of which has been filled with a white clay like substance and secured by three clasps of gold set close together across the filigree on the rim. The front plate is slightly convex and this is to ensure that the concentric pattern does not lose its perspective and individuality. The overall design is of modified cruciform pattern with a central boss. There are five concentric rings of gold cloisonné of different shapes including stepped, square, triangular and semicircle, each soldered to one other at their point of contact. The carpet effect of garnet and gold is interrupted by well-spaced triangular and step-shaped inlays of blue glass and four square-shaped inlays of deep red garnet (one now missing). There is a boss at the centre with four satellite bosses set with inlays of a white shell-like material which originally had a waxy surface. On the back is an animal-head catch plate for the bronze pin and the drum like head of the pin and its surround are enriched with gold wire filigree. The head of the pin is also jewelled with garnets and there is a safety loop for securing the loop to clothing. The Cloisonné' and units of filigree are set with precision and consist of fine beaded gold wire soldered to a prepared ground of gold on which the outline of the pattern had already been raised. The twisted knot and the interlace pattern is a bold translation of the familiar Teutonic backward biting quadruped. The fine execution of the brooch marks the period of the wealth and political ascendancy of the Jutes under Aethelberht, King of Kent, in the 7th century. The brooch has ancient repair on the rim; three gold clips fasten plates together. The brooch was found with other grave goods including a sheet-gold pendant with a central repoussé boss surrounded by concentric zones of stamped circles (M6231), silver bow brooches with incised decoration along the shaft which is coiled to form a spring (M6234 & M6235), a glass palm cup (M6228), an iron chatelaine, two bronze pans, the smaller one inside the bigger one and a small brass trivet. In the same grave there were also remains of a wooden box with iron fittings, a coarse pottery vessel.