What Did The Anglo-Saxons Wear? Facts About Anglo-Saxon Clothing

Here are some facts about Anglo-Saxon clothes.

  • Wool, linen and silk were the only materials used in Anglo-Saxon clothes. Silk was expensive and worn only by the rich, while most peasants could afford to wear linen and woolen clothes.

  • A knee length woolen tunic was the most common garment, and many very poor people could not afford to wear shoes or trousers.
  • Soldiers wore long coats with chain mail attached to them. Metal collars were worn for extra protection during the 9th and 10th centuries, and weapons were decorated with jewellery.
  • As Christianity became popular throughout Anglo-Saxon Britain, it was thought that women should have their heads covered. Plain or embroidered veils were popular, which often reached down to the ankles.
  • The most common Anglo-Saxon clothes for women were black or brown woolen gowns. All women wore some type of head covering, but many did not wear shoes until the later Anglo-Saxon period.
  • Women’s clothing styles also changed as Christianity spread across Britain from the 6th century onwards. Clothing styles also varied between different parts of the country, often based on the climate.
  • Earrings were popular, often made from precious materials, such as pearl, crystal or garnets. Most people did not wear any rings on their fingers, and women did not wear much make up.
  • Belts and belt buckles were important elements of Anglo-Saxon clothes, especially for men. Belts were usually made from leather and often had decorative items or tools hanging from them.
  • Jackets became popular around the 7th century, made from fur or linen. Shoes and socks became popular too, and socks were worn over longer stockings, by rich and poor people.
  • Several UK museums have collections of Anglo-Saxon clothes and artifacts, including the Ashmolean in Oxford and the Museum of London. The Ashmolean also displays accessories such as combs and belt buckles.

What next? Check out some Anglo-Saxon jewellery facts, or visit our Anglo-Saxon resources page.

The Anglo-Saxons and Christianity: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Anglo-Saxons and Christianity.

  • Anglo-Saxon Britain became Christian around the end of the 6th century. The new beliefs originated in Ireland, and were also brought to Britain from Rome by St. Augustine of Canterbury.
  • King Aethelberht was the first Saxon king to be baptized, in around 601 AD. The large kingdom of Mercia officially became Christian in 655 AD, following the defeat of King Penda in battle.
  • St. Augustine chose Canterbury to be the seat of the Archbishop, as London had too many pagan tribes. St. Augustine is today considered to be the founder of the English church.

St Augustine of Canterbury

  • During the 7th and 8th centuries, Anglo-Saxon Christianity was spread largely through the monasteries. Monks travelled through the surrounding area and preached to the villages.
  • The Venerable Bede was one of the most well-known monks and writers of the Anglo-Saxon period. Bede wrote books about Christianity and history, composed hymns and is thought to have coined the phrases BC and AD.
  • Wilfrid was one of the most important 7th century Bishops. He helped to bring Christianity to Sussex, built many churches and several monasteries and was made a saint after his death.
  • Churches in Anglo-Saxon Britain were used for education as well as religion. Church officials carried out other tasks too, including advising the king and overseeing Church estates.
  • Several fairly complete Anglo-Saxon churches can still be seen today in Britain, notably the 9th century Greensted Church in Essex. Many churches were made from brick or stone, whereas wood was the main building material for Anglo-Saxon houses.
  • Anglo-Saxon Christianity was revived in Britain during the 10th century, following Viking invasions. The Vikings became Christians, and many new churches were built.

What next? Discover more facts about the Anglo-Saxons by visiting our resources page.

Anglo-Saxon Jewellery: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Anglo-Saxon jewellery.

  • Much Anglo-Saxon art and jewellery was influenced by people from central Europe, in what is now Germany. The 7th and 8th centuries are considered to be the most productive periods for Anglo-Saxon art and design.

  • Anglo-Saxon jewellery used a lot of gold – more for its high cost and status than its appearance. Goldsmiths were highly respected and were given freedom to move around the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
  • Anglo-Saxon jewellery, especially metalwork, was admired as far away as Italy. Saxon goldsmiths worked on decorations for St. Peter’s church in Rome, although few pieces have survived.
  • Both men and women liked to wear jewellery in Anglo-Saxon times. Necklaces and bracelets were made from glass beads, amber and amethyst, and women fastened their clothing with brooches.
  • Anglo-Saxon women also wore pieces of jewellery hanging from their waist. These were thought to indicate their role as the head of the household and probably had no practical purpose.
  • Some jewellers and goldsmiths became well known for their skill. Spearhafoc was appointed Bishop of London, while Mannig was said to have miraculously healed a wound in a worker’s hand.
  • Men wore belt buckles, more for decoration than for practical reasons, and these were often large and elaborate. Women of high rank or who were wealthy wore necklaces made from silver or gold.
  • Some of the finest examples of Anglo-Saxon jewellery were found in the burial site at Sutton Hoo in East Anglia. Excavations revealed a ship, household items, weapons and beautiful jewellery.
  • Many items excavated from Sutton Hoo are on display in the British Museum. Highlights of the Anglo-Saxon jewellery found there include rings, earrings, pendants and necklaces.

The Fuller Brooch

  • One of the most beautiful pieces of jewellery in the museum is the Fuller Brooch. The brooch was made from silver and lead during the 9th century, and its engravings depict the five senses.

What next? Discover more facts about the Anglo-Saxons by visiting our resources page.

Best Battle of Hastings Books for Kids

Here are some great children’s books on the subject of the Norman invasion in 1066 and the Battle of Hastings.

Non-Fiction

Battle of Hastings

Fiction

  • 1066 (I Was There) by Jim Eldridge. – The story of an Anglo-Saxon page called Edwin and his adventures before and during the Battle of Hastings.
  • Hastings (EDGE Battles Book 1) by Gary Smailes. – A Fighting Fantasy style game-book in which the reader takes on the role of William the Conqueror.

What next? Learn more about the Normans by visiting our resources page, or discover some facts about William the Conqueror, The Battle of Hastings, Edward the Confessor and King Harold.

Anglo-Saxon Farming: Facts About Agriculture

Here are some facts about Anglo-Saxon farms and agriculture.

  • Anglo-Saxon farming was widespread throughout Britain, and almost everybody worked on a farm. They raised chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and cows and grew a range of crops and vegetables.

  • Most Anglo-Saxon farms and villages were built close to a source of fresh water. They were usually surrounded by a high wooden fence designed to keep the farm animals safe from attacks by wolves and bears.
  • As well as raising animals for their meat, milk and eggs, the Saxons also used animals for other products important for daily living. These included wool and leather, cooking fat, and tallow for making candles.
  • Meat didn’t feature all that heavily in a Anglo-Saxon diet. Rich people ate more meat than poor people. Some poor Anglo-Saxons ate pork, bacon and chicken from the animals they raised on their farm, but they seldom could afford red meat.

Anglo-Saxon Farming

  • Early Anglo-Saxon farmers used a primitive type of plough. It dug furrows using a metal blade pulled by up to 8 oxen.
  • Cabbages, peas, parsnips and carrots were common vegetables in Anglo-Saxon Britain, and fields were divided into long strips. Blackberries, apples and raspberries were the most common fruits of the time.
  • Saxon animals were smaller than they are today, and did not provide as much meat. Sheep were only about 70 cm high, and cows were just over a metre in height.

Anglo-Saxon Farmers

  • Many Anglo-Saxon farms had large stones, used for grinding flour. The flour was used to make bread, baked on heated stones.
  • The Saxons also caught fish with fishing rods and nets, and traded for dried fish from Scandinavia.

What next? Learn about Anglo-Saxon food, or check out our Anglo-Saxon resources page.

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms and Kings: Facts and Information

Following the end of Roman rule in Britain (5th century), a patchwork of numerous kingdoms was established in England by the Anglo-Saxons. These kingdoms were independent and many of them had their own king.

Some of the main kingdoms were Northumbria, Mercia, Kent, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex and Sussex. Other minor kingdoms included, the Kingdom of Lindsey (located between the Wash and the Humber estuary),  and the Kingdom of the Iclingas (located in the valley of the River Trent).

Over time, the kingdoms joined together until King Athelstan was recognised as monarch by the Kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex, uniting the independent kingdoms of England.



Famous Anglo-Saxon Kings

  • According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Cerdic was the first King of Wessex, and ruled from 519 to 534. All future Kings of Wessex claimed that they were related to Cerdic. Some historians believe that Cerdic was a legendary figure and didn’t actually exist.
  • The Venerable Bede, the chronicler, reported that Aethelberht, King of Kent (who lived during the late 6th century), was the first English monarch to become a Christian. He also brought in a law code which included more than 90 written laws.
  • King Raedwald of East Anglia ruled from around the year 600 to somewhere in the 620s. He was the first of the East angles to become a Christian, but he also kept a pagan temple. Many historians believe that his body was buried in the ship burial at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.
  • Alfred the Great was a King of Wessex. He called himself King of the Anglo-Saxons, and defended his lands from attacks carried out by the Vikings. He was born in 849 and died in 899.
  • Born in Wessex in the early 890s, King Athelstan is though of by many historians as the first King of England. In 927 he conquered York, the last remaining Viking kingdom in England.
  • Harold Godwinson (Harold II) was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. He ruled from 5th January 1066 to 14th October 1066. His reign was ended by his death in the Battle of Hastings at the hands of the Normans, led by William the Conqueror.
  • Other Anglo-Saxon kings include: Edward the Confessor, Edward the Elder (the son of Alfred the Great), Sweyn Forkbeard (King of Denmark, Norway and England), Aethelwulf (King of Wessex), ans Penda (King of Mercia).

Visit our resources page to discover more facts about the Anglo-Saxons.

Athelstan: Facts About the Anglo-Saxon King

Here are some interesting facts about Athelstan.

  • Athelstan was an Anglo-Saxon king, who is often thought to be the first King of England. He was the Anglo-Saxon king from 924 to 927 AD, and King of England from 927 to 939.

  • He became king when his father, King Edward died. The king was so fond of Athelstan that he gave him a sword and made him a knight at an early age.
  • During the first two years of his reign, he fought the Danes and won York. He also defeated opposition in Cornwall and made the five Welsh kings each pay him 25,000 sheep every year.
  • In 934, Athelstan invaded Scotland by land and sea. He may have invaded because the death of the Norse king, Guthrith, that same year meant he could more easily invade.
  • He collected religious relics and works of art which he often gave to churches. He founded many monasteries in Britain, including the Abbey of St. John in Yorkshire.
  • Athelstan helped to promote learning, and one of his students invented a board game called Gospel Dice.
  • The epic poem Beowulf may have been written at his request.
  • He helped create an organization for masons, which may have led to the Freemasons. He also helped translate the Bible into English, banned Sunday trading and promoted trade in rural areas.
  • Athelstan was one of the first kings to write laws and enforce them. The first two laws were about paying money to the church, and making sure the poor were given money.
  • He owned land in Foxley in what is now Wiltshire, and gave the nearby town of Malmesbury 600 acres of land. To this day, the land is still owned by the Freemen of the town.
  • Athelstan was buried in Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire. His bones were taken sometime during the 16th century, and the tomb there today is an empty one.

King Arthur: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about King Arthur.

  • King Arthur is a legendary 5th century British king, who defeated the invading Saxons. He probably wasn’t real, although he may have been based on a real person.

  • During the 6th century, a heroic warrior named Arthur appeared in a book of poems by Aneirin. The 12th century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth also wrote about Arthur’s life.
  • King Arthur was supposedly born in Tintagel Castle, in Cornwall. In 1998, the The Artognou stone was found there, containing Greek and Latin writing, and is seen by some as proof of King Arthur’s existence.
  • He is famous for his heroic knights, known as the Knights of the Round Table. Because the table giant was round, everybody was equal, and nobody was at the table’s head.
  • Arthur’s knights included: Galahad, Gawain, Lancelot, Percival and Bedivere.
  • Arthur’s legendary sword was called Excalibur.
King Arthur
King Arthur defeats the Saxons in battle
  • Merlin is the most famous wizard in mythology, and was said to be King Arthur’s advisor. He first appeared in a 12th century book and is thought to be buried in Brittany, France.
  • Many believe that King Arthur is buried in Glastonbury Abbey, in Somerset. In the 12th century, monks at the abbey supposedly found Arthur’s grave, although it has not been seen since.
  • Arthur also searched for the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ. The cup is said to be buried at the foot of a nearby hill, Glastonbury Tor, having been brought back from the Holy Land.
  • King Arthur has been portrayed in dozens of films and TV programmes. He has been played by Richard Harris and Clive Owen, and spoofed by the Monty Python team.
  • He has also been used in modern times as a role model. Charitable groups such as the Knights of King Arthur were once popular in the United States.
  • King Arthur is one of the Nine Worthies, a group of respected historical and mythical figures. Other Worthies include Alexander the Great, King Charlemagne and David, slayer of Goliath.

Alfred Jewel: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Alfred Jewel.

  • The Alfred Jewel is an Anglo-Saxon artefact from the 9th century, made during the reign of King Alfred the Great.
  • It is made of enamel, quartz and gold, and it would have once been attached to the top of a thin wooden rod. It is thought to have been the handle of a pointer stick (or aestel), used for following words when reading from gospel texts.

  • It is called the Alfred Jewel because Alfred the Great ordered it to be made. The artefact is inscribed with the words ‘Aelred Mec Heht Gewyrcan’ – Alfred ordered me made.
  • The Alfred Jewel is about 6.5 cm long and shows an image of a man – possibly Jesus Christ or St Cuthbert or St Neot.

Alfred Jewel

  • Some believe that the man is a figure representing the sense of sight
  • The artefact was discoved at North Petherton, Somerset in 1693.
  • It can be seen by the public in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
  • Since the discovery of the Alfred Jewel, other similar artefacts have been found. These include: The Minister Lovell Jewel, The Warminster Jewel, The Bowleaze Jewel, The Yorkshire Aestel, The Borg Aestel and the Bidford Bobble.
  •  Many historians believe that the teardrop-shaped piece of crystal used in the Alfred Jewel was recycled from a piece of Roman jewellery.
  • A mosaic based on the Alfred Jewel can be found in the Market Square of St Neots. An image of the Alfred Jewel can also be found on the St Neots village sign.

What next? Learn more about the Anglo-Saxons by visiting our Anglo-Saxon resources page.

Anglo-Saxon Food Facts: What Did the Anglo-Saxons Eat?

Here are some facts about Anglo-Saxon food and drink.

  • The Anglo-Saxons enjoyed their food and drink, and often ate meals in the great hall, a building in the centre of the village.
  • Food was cooked over a large fire in the middle of the house.

  • Many people ate mostly vegetables because meat was very difficult to get. Wild animals could only be hunted and killed by those whose land they were on.
  • However, pigs were kept and killed for pork. Cows were kept for milk, although sheep were kept just for their wool.
  • Many people drank a sweet alcoholic drink called mead, made from honey. Wine was imported from other countries in Europe, and was mostly drunk by rich people.
  • Cabbages, carrots, parsnips, onions and beans were the most commonly used vegetables. Vegetables were mostly boiled or fried.
  • Spices were used to add flavour to Anglo-Saxon food. Dill, thyme and coriander may have been grown and more exotic spices as ginger, pepper and cinnamon were imported by the rich.
  • Fish was popular in Anglo-Saxon England and it was eaten fresh, or preserved by salting, smoking or drying. Most people ate a lot of shellfish as well, and shellfish may have been exported to other parts of Europe.
  • Wild fruits were also popular in Anglo-Saxon food and cooking, such as raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Apples were widely eaten and may have been used to make cider.
  • Most Anglo-Saxon meals included freshly baked bread, which was made much the same way as it is today.
  • At large gatherings and feasts, musicians played during the meal and people told stories.
  • Stew was one of the most commonly eaten meals by the common people. It would have been made from whatever vegetables were available.
  • Some of the meals eaten by the Anglo-Saxon nobility consisted of up to 12 courses.
  • The Anglo-Saxons ate with spoons and sharp knives.

What next? Learn more about the Anglo-Saxons by visiting our resources page.