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The Staffordshire Hoard

The Staffordshire Hoard and Tamworth, The Ancient Capital of Mercia

Its not very often that you get the chance to get close to real, valuable buried treasure and look back in time to the 6th century, when Tamworth was the Ancient Capital of Mercia, one of the three kingdoms that ruled the county.

Helmet Front

The Anglo-Saxons came to Staffordshire in the late 6th century as groups of settlers or tribes.  Mercia means boundary and the area grew from a number of these separate tribes.

The Mercians gradually conquered most of the other Midland tribes to become a powerful kingdom stretching from the  Humber to the Thames.  The rest of the country was ruled by the kingdoms of Northumbria and Wessex.

Tamworth was the heartland of the Mercian Kingdom and the King’s main residence was in Tamworth.

It is certain that the Mercian kings spent more time at Tamworth than anywhere else, and it is thought that there was a royal palace at Tamworth by the end of the 7th century situated on the site close to St Editha’s Church.

Originally this palace would have been a timber hall with a chapel and somewhere for horses to be stabled.

Evidence from signed charters also shows that the Mercian royal families were regularly here for the festivals of Christmas and Easter between 751 and 857 A.D.

The most well know Mercian Kings are Penda (625-655), Wulfhere (657-674), Aethelred (674-704), Aethelbald (716-757) and Offa (757-796).

Tamworth is also known to have been important within Mercia as it had a water mill which ground grain for food for the settlement and its livestock.

The mill is believed to be the earliest post Roman water mill found in Britain.  It was powered by the River Anker and used mill stones traded to King Offa from the French King Charlemagne in exchange for English woollen cloaks.

Mercian power began to decline after the death of King Offa and by the 10th century it lost its independence, becoming part of the Kingdom of Wessex, to create the Kingdom of England.

The town had significant importance as a military centre and the recent local discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest collection of Saxon gold ever found, has focused the world’s attention on this area.

We may never know why it was buried or who it belonged to.  Was it part of the royal treasure of the Mercian Kings, buried to hide it from invaders?

Visit Tamworth Castle and Discover the story of Mercian life and displays of Hoard items.

The Mercian Trail

The Mercian Trail Partnership aims to tell the emerging story of the Staffordshire Hoard and the Anglo-Saxon history of the region, through a series of informative permanent and temproary displays and a prgramme of outreach activities aimed at residents and vistors alike.