Amateur archaeologist Basil Brown to be honoured

HE made one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the United Kingdom unearthing priceless treasure which is now displayed in the British Museum.

HE made one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the United Kingdom unearthing priceless treasure which is now displayed in the British Museum.

Among the historical artefacts was the unique discovery of a seventh century ship believed by many to be the grave of an Anglo Saxon king.

But ironically the final resting place of Basil Brown, the man who made the incredible discoveries at Sutton Hoo in 1939, remains a mystery.

Now it is hoped surviving relatives of the self-taught archaeologist will get in touch with the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History which is planning a special service in Mr Brown's honour.

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The group has commissioned the creation of a plaque in his memory which will be unveiled on August 30 at Rickinghall Inferior Church, in his home village, to mark 70 years since the ship was unearthed.

Institute chairman Edward Martin said: “We had the idea for the plaque a couple of years ago but started actively sorting it out last year knowing the 70 year anniversary was coming up.

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“We are going for the end of August as that is when the excavation ended.”

Despite the amazing discoveries he made, Mr Brown was not qualified in archaeology and was forced to step aside from being in charge of the Sutton Hoo dig.

Mr Martin said: “He was a man who was very keen on archaeology and very skilled in excavation.

“He hadn't been to university or had wide schooling, his father was a farmer and he was going to be a farmer until things did not quite work out like that.

“He drifted into it but it was something he enjoyed and loved and was he employed in a sort of way by Ipswich Museum to do things and then the owner wanted this excavation at Sutton Hoo so Basil was the man.”

Mr Martin added: “He could see differences in soil very clearly and it was only when he had cleared it that it became clear how important it was and an academic was bought in from outside.

“It went from something of county and regional importance to something of national importance so it was awkward for him.

“Unfortunately that displaced Basil from running it although he was still there during it, he couldn't be in charge.”

As well as honouring him with the plaque, the institute is hoping to find out what happened to Mr Brown's ashes after he was cremated at Ipswich Crematorium in 1977.

Mr Martin is making inquiries in the hope of being able to lay a wreath at the site.

Anyone is welcome at the service on August 30 at 3pm will see the plaque handed over by its creator institute member Gilbert Burroughes who will talk about Mr Brown.

Mr Burroughes, who formed an interest in archaeology after meeting Mr Brown in the 1950s, said yesterday: “He was a humble man, he was not pushy at all and whilst he was not a professional in the sense that he went to university and got degrees he was an excellent archaeologist and I think that really stands out by the fact that anyone who looks at the photographs of the Sutton Hoo boat can see it was not an amateur dig.”

Any surviving family of Mr Brown or anyone who knows where his ashes are is asked to contact Mr Martin on 01284 352442 in the daytime or email

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