Could there be another Sutton Hoo buried near Sudbury?

Prittlewell coptic bowl, like the one found at Chilton

Prittlewell coptic bowl, like the one found at Chilton - Credit: Archant

There could be a second ancient burial site in Suffolk of the same magnitude as the county’s world-famous Sutton Hoo, it has been claimed.

David Burnett, Sudbury Museum Trust secretary, has found evidence which points to an Anglo Saxon noble being buried on what is now an industrial site at Chilton on the outskirts of Sudbury.

The evidence is a large ceremonial bronze bowl, now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which was recorded as having been found close to Chilton Hall in 1861.

Known as a Coptic bowl, it came from an Anglo-Saxon grave excavated by Victorian amateur archaeologist Sir John Evans in an undisclosed location near the hall.

What has piqued historians’ interest is that the large shallow dish is similar to one found at a Royal Saxon tomb in Prittlewell, Essex, which was discovered in 2003.

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It also resembles another Coptic bowl that was found in the famous 7th Century ship burial at Sutton Hoo, but is in much better condition. Bowls of this kind from the eastern Mediterranean would have been used in certain ceremonies.

Mr Burnett, who made the discovery while carrying out research for a new book, said: “It (the bowl) is a high status object and raises the intriguing possibility that someone important was buried in Chilton.

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“The very name of the village comes from its Old English place name of Ciltona which is found in a number of counties and is usually translated as ‘the farm or estate of the young noble man’.

“Perhaps another Sutton Hoo is awaiting discovery.”

According to Mr Burnett, excavations by Suffolk County Council in 1996/7 revealed traces of a Saxon building between what is now the new Sudbury Health Centre and St Mary’s Church, adding to the ‘second Sutton Hoo’ theory.

Another local history expert Valerie Herbert, who edited the book, said there was a chance that a former king could even be buried at Chilton.

She added: “It is a very interesting area which was settled so early that it’s not surprising they have found evidence of Anglo Saxon dwellings there.

“It was noted in one of the early Victorian trade directories that there was a burial ‘barrow’ in Chilton but that was later omitted from subsequent documents. It could be that the mound has simply been eroded over years of farming on the land.

“I feel very excited by the discovery of the bowl, which could of course just be a single piece that someone buried.

“But the prospect of there being a whole burial site there along the lines of Sutton Hoo is an exciting one that needs to be explored further - I very much hope someone will follow this up.”

The full story is told in Mr Burnett’s new book ‘Chilton - the first three thousand years’, which is due to be published by the Museum Trust this Saturday. It opens with Chilton’s Iron Age people and ends with a summer wedding this year, and along the way covers the Domesday survey, speculation over the lost village, and the vain fight to prevent Sudbury annexing part of the parish in 1986. The village is currently facing the biggest change in its history - the Chilton Woods development which will see up to 1,250 new homes built there.

The book will be launched at Sudbury Library this Saturday from 10am to 1pm with a book signing event. It will be available to buy at Kestrel bookshop in Friars Street, the Tourist Office in the library, Landers Bookshop in Long Melford and at Great Waldingfield Post Office.

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