Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Lenborough Hoard

Dr Rory Naismith writes:

This week, a selection of items from the Lenborough hoard goes on display at the British Museum. 

It is the largest coin hoard ever to be considered under the Treasure Act of 1996, consisting of 5,251 silver pennies (and two cut halfpennies). The find came to light on 21 December 2014, during a metal-detecting rally at Lenborough in Buckinghamshire. Part of its excavation was filmed by one of the detectorists present. Initial digging uncovered the coins inside a lead container, but they were removed from this in the course of excavation. They are currently being kept at the British Museum, awaiting the result of a coroner’s inquest to determine whether the find constitutes treasure. 

The Lenborough Hoard

The hoard consists largely of pennies of King Cnut (1016–35), of the so-called ‘Short Cross’ type. This was the last of three substantive coin-issues in his reign. However, the hoard also includes an earlier clutch of material from the time of Cnut’s predecessor, Æthelred II (978–1016). These span the second half of his reign, and include one specimen of the excessively rare and historically important ‘Agnus Dei’ type, probably issued in 1009 as part of a programme of prayer and penitence to ward off viking attack.

 Until full publication, it is difficult to evaluate the exact context of the hoard. It belongs to a period when recoinages were being undertaken frequently, recycling the bulk of the currency – though, as in this case, collections of earlier coinage could sometimes be held back as savings or for private usage. The Lenborough find may shed light on how and why some coin-users retained earlier currency. Unfortunately, there is no obvious clue to the identity of its owner, or to the context of its assemblage, concealment and non-recovery. It was no small sum, however. 5,252 pennies amounted to £21 17s 8d in the contemporary system of account. A single penny during this period had considerable buying power – probably tens of modern pounds sterling or Euros – and the total content of the Lenborough hoard was more than most estates recorded in Domesday Book would be expected to produce in a year. It is clearly a lot more than most of the population would ever have handled on one occasion. That said, for the elite of late Anglo-Saxon England the Lenborough hoard would not have been an exceptional sum. The king and leading earls in 1066 were bringing in several thousand pounds a year, and in around 1037, just a few years after the hoard was concealed, the archbishop of Canterbury bought land at Godmersham in Kent for 72 marks of silver by weight – that is, at least 11,520 pennies (the equivalent of two Lenborough hoards). A shrine made for the Old Minster at Winchester in honour of St Swithun under the patronage of King Edgar (959–75) was said in a detailed description written soon after to have contained 300 lbs in precious metal.

The Lenborough hoard is impressive in its scale, and provides a precious insight into the currency of the eleventh century; but at the same time, it is a sobering reminder of just how much silver and gold was available in late Anglo-Saxon England – and of just how much might yet await discovery.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

'Songs of Donegal and other places': A Performance of sean-nós by Lillis Ó Laoire

5 March 2015, ASNC Common Room, 5-6pm 

A session of traditional Irish music with former ASNC student Andrea Palandri and Irish harpist Colm McGonigle will follow the performance.

The Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic is pleased to announce a performance of Irish sean-nós singing by Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire, on Thursday, 5 MARCH, 2015, at 5pm. The event will take place in the ASNC COMMON ROOM, ENGLISH FACULTY (2ND FLOOR), SIDGWICK SITE, 9 WEST ROAD.  The performance will highlight songs in Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and will include pieces from Tory Island, Rathlin and the Isle of Skye.  The event is free of charge and open to students, staff and the public.

Lillis Ó Laoire, Ar Chreag i Lár na Farraige ('On a Rock in the Middle of the Sea')

Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire is an accomplished sean-nós singer from Gort an Choirce, Co. Donegal, and a highly respected scholar.  He is Senior Lecturer in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at National University Ireland, Galway, and has published widely in the field of Irish language, folklore and ethnography.  His book Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song Man (co-authored with Sean Williams), was published by Oxford University Press (2011), and was awarded the 2012 Alan P. Merriam Prize presented by the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Mount Errigal, Gort an Choirce, Co. Donegal

Dr. Ó Laoire's monograph, On a Rock in the Middle of the Ocean: Songs and Singers in Tory Island (2007), first published in Irish as Ar Chreag i Lár na Farraige, explores the place and function of traditional song within this small island community on the north west coast of Co. Donegal. Ó Laoire won the prestigious 'Corn Uí Riada’  for his sean-nós singing in 1991 and 1994 and has performed widely in Ireland and internationally. 

The Scottish Highlands

We invite you to welcome him to this special performance at Cambridge University.  Dr. Ó Laoire’s related academic interests and contributions can be found here.

Following Dr. Ó Laoire’s performance,  former ASNC student Andrea Palandri, who is now pursuing a Masters degree in Modern Irish at University College Cork, will make a special visit to ASNC to perform  Irish fiddle music with Irish harpist Colm McGonigle.

Former ASNC student Andrea Palandri and Irish harpist, Colm McGonigle  (ASNC, 2014)

Drinks and light snacks will be provided in the ASNC Common Room following the performance.

The Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic extends special thanks to ASNC alumna Shelby Switzer, for her donation to support events relating to Modern Irish language and culture in 2014-15. Her generous gift, which was highlighted in the ASNC Alumni Newsletter 2014, has provided invaluable funding for this event. Shelby studied Medieval and Modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic during her years in ASNC, and has continued to share her deep interest in language and culture in many corners of the globe since her graduation in 2012, teaching English in a small village in the Himalayan foothills and pursuing a career in coding. We are grateful for Shelby's generous contributions to the ASNC community both as a student and as a valued alumna.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr Margo Griffin-Wilson: