Site of Saxon Cemetery 100m N of Bidford Bridge

Description of this historic site

The site of a cemetery dating to the Anglo-Saxon period, known from archaeological excavations and finds. It is located 100m north of Bidford Bridge.

Notes about this historic site

1 In 1921 workmen found around 23 skeletons and other ‘articles’ including brooches from a cutting for a new road just north of the High Street at Bidford. The finds indicated a probable Anglo-Saxon cemetery site and in the summer of 1922 a large excavation took place by Members of the Birmingham Archaeological Society and the Society of Antiquarians of an area to the north and west of the new road cutting in an area of gravel subsoil. Around 80 inhumations were discovered with a variety of grave goods confirming an Anglo-Saxon date to the early 6th Century. The finds included 26 spear heads, 31 knives, arrow heads, shield bosses, 2 buckets, a bronze bowl and a fragment of a second one, a bronze box, numerous brooches, glass and amber bead necklaces, rings, pins, 2 bone combs and straighteners, metal tweezers and other metal objects and fragments. In addition 17 complete cremation urns were discovered with fragments of approximately 120 others. Charcoal was noted throughout the site in thiirteen cases in the pelvis area of inhumations. A large hearth was also discovered with fire cracked stones.
2 Further excavations were carried out in the summer of 1923 expanding the excavated area outwards, particularly to the west. On the eastern side a distinct line of around 18 burials was discovered aligned with the head to the west and this appears to form the eastern edge of the cemetery. This eastern line appeared to continue further to the south in an area excavated on the southern side of the 1921 road cutting. Four inhumations were discovered here again with the head aligned to the west. To the north 32 inhumations and 7 cremations were found and it was believed the edge of the cemetery had again been discovered with finds petering out. To the west 38 burials were found with 6 cremation urns. Again throughout the area fragments of other creation urns was discovered. Charcoal was noted again predominately in the pelvis and leg areas of burials. 10 spear heads, 30 iron knives, 4 shield bosses, a bonze bowl, necklaces, brooches, numerous other metal objects, a bone comb and fragment of another were all recovered. Analysis of the alignment of the burials from the 1922 and 1923 excavations showed concentrations with the head to the south and west (35 and 27 respectively) with all others with their head mainly pointing south west with a few SSE and NNW. The total number of individuals from the 1921-23 excavations was noted as 170.
3 Further details of the 1921-23 excavations records that 21 of the graves were of children; eleven were unfurnished, two had knives only. Of the 166 adult graves 55 were unfurnished, and 18 had knives only. Among the associated objects were brooches – saucer, applied, disc, penannular, flat-annular, small-long, large and small square-headed, swastika and cruciform; pendants; wrist-clasps; finger-rings; silver pins; several necklaces of amber, glass and paste beads; a large ivory ring; a bronze disc; buckles; spearheads; knives; shield-bosses, but no swords; five pottery accessory vessels, and two bronze bowls. The cemetery appears to have had a long life.
4 OS Card.
5 Descriptive text.
6 Descriptive text.
7 Descriptive text.
8 Preliminary investigations in 1971 in advance of road construction near to the site of the pagan Saxon cemetery produced 2 cremations and 3 inhumations about 50m N of the limits of the 1923 excavation. One grave was badly disturbed, another – that of a young woman – contained a situla and a pair of saucer brooches. A third grave contained a small long brooch of square headed type and a type G penannular brooch as well as a long iron pin and a pierced bronze disc, a knife, a purse mount and a necklace of 36 glass and amber beads. Taken to indicate a greater extent to the earlier known cemetery rather than another separate burial area. Evidence of domestic occupation was also found (PRN 6132).
9 Further excavations in 1975, 1978 and 1979 located further evidence of domestic occupation and 3 graves. Of the graves 2 are probably 6th century, the third probably early 7th century. In addition 4 unaccompanied graves were found on the SE of the site.
10 Excavations in 1982 produced other graves of Anglo-Saxon and Roman date. These included 10 inhumations, 4 accompanied by grave goods. Burial 3 had a simple disc brooch, burial 4 had two small long brooches a decorative pin and belt fittings, burial 5 had a simple disc brooch, burial 6 had 2 spearheads, a knife and belt fittings.
11 A bronze strap end was found nearby at SP 099518. This probably dates to between c.450 and 700 AD.
12 Discussion of 1971 Burial HB2 indicated deposition in the first 3/4 of the 6th century. Suggested as a ‘cunning woman’ due to the nature of her grave goods with a special role in society for beneficial magic, healing protection and divination.
13 Skeletal analysis determined that one of the burials (HB12) had green staining suggesting contact with a bronze object. Also suggested the the individual was a robust male used to physical labour who may have been involved in mining or agricultural work such as harvesting with a scythe. The latter seems more likely given the location.
14 Archival material from 1971-2.
15 A watching brief and excavation took place in 1990 during construction of the car park at the rear of the Anglo-Saxon pub. 17 inhumation burials with a number of grave goods (spearheads, knives, shield bosses, brooches, beads, pottery) were discovered. The burials are likely to date from the period AD 550-700.
16 An evaluation of land to the rear of the Anglo-Saxon pub in 1998 (WA 8220) found no evidence for a continuation of the cemetery to the south and west.
17 Find of an Anglo Saxon brooch fragment in the constructors’ waste (of the Car Park excavation) in May 1990.
18 Archival correspondence.
19 On 21st March 1874 some workman extracting gravel for Mr J. W. Smith in Bidford discovered a ‘male’ skeleton, with a necklace of 36 beads, possibly amber, a pendant (brooch) in a heart shape, two metal rings and several other metal ornaments. No other information relating to the site or location is available. On 1st July 1876 two workmen extracting gravel for Messrs. Sill and Son at Bidford discovered two skeletons, one six feet below ground surface the other only 1 foot below ground. The teeth were noted as ‘sound’ and that the finds were available on display with Messrs. Sill and Son establishment. No other information relating to the site or location is available.
It has been suggested that these skeletons must have been found in the area of Victorian Quarrying to the north of the Anglo-Saxon Pub.
20 Archival material.
21 No finds or features related to the cemetery were noted during observation to the rear of the former Anglo-Saxon public house.

More from Bidford on Avon