Benty Grange helmet

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Coordinates: 53°03′19″N 1°53′56″W / 53.0553°N 1.8988°W / 53.0553; -1.8988

Benty Grange helmet
Colour photograph of the Benty Grange helmet
The Benty Grange helmet, on a modern transparent support.
Material Iron, horn
Discovered 1848
Benty Grange farm, Monyash, Derbyshire
Discovered by Thomas Bateman
Present location Weston Park Museum, Sheffield
Registration J93.1189

The Benty Grange helmet is a boar-crested Anglo-Saxon helmet excavated by Thomas Bateman on 3 May 1848 from a tumulus at the Benty Grange Farm in the civil parish of Monyash in the English county of Derbyshire.[1] The remains were purchased by Sheffield's Weston Park Museum in 1893 as part of Bateman's collection,[2] and are now displayed there along with a reconstruction.[3]

This helmet is boar-crested, evoking descriptions of similar helmets in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. The surviving iron bands would have supported plates of horn (decayed in antiquity) held in place with small silver rivets.[4] The nasal (nose guard) of the helmet is decorated with a silver cross.


Benty Grange Farm, in the parish of Monyash in the Derbyshire Dales district

The helmet was discovered on 3 May 1848 during an excavation by Thomas Bateman on the Benty Grange farm in Derbyshire,[1] in what is now the Peak District National Park.[5] The subject of the excavation, a barrow, was "perhaps not more than two feet at the highest point," but "spread over a pretty large area," and "surrounded by a small fosse or trench."[1]

At its centre lay a body, flat against the original surface of the soil, of which little remained;[6][1] what was thought to be the one remnant, strands of hair, is now thought to be from a cloak[7] of "fur, cowhide or similar material".[8] In the area of the "hair" was found "a curious assemblage of ornaments," which were difficult to successfully remove from the hardened earth.[1] This included a cup of leather or wood, approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter at the mouth.[1] Its rim was edged with silver,[1] while its surface was "decorated by four wheel-shaped ornaments and two crosses of thin silver, affixed by pins of the same metal, clenched inside."[9] Also found were "two circular enamels upon copper 1 3/4 diameter, in narrow silver frames, and a third, which was so far decomposed as to be irrecoverable", as well as "a knot of very fine wire," and some "thin bone variously ornamented with lozenges &c."[9] attached to silk, but which soon decayed when exposed to air.[10]


This helm is crested with an iron boar with bronze eyes inset with garnet, this sits upon an elliptical copper-alloy plate. The hips of the boar are made with pear-shaped plates of gilded silver.[11] The 1986 reconstruction, based on conservation work carried out at the British Museum, has boar bristles running along the back.[12]

In Norse mythology, the boar talisman was associated with Freyja's role as battle goddess.[13][14]


The Benty Grange helmet is one of the "crested helmets" known in Northern Europe in the sixth through eleventh centuries AD.[15][16]

Boar-crests in Beowulf

Colour photograph of the Sutton Hoo helmet, which has boar images on each of its two eyebrows
The Sutton Hoo helmet exhibits the other style of boar motif mentioned in Beowulf.

The Benty Grange helmet recalls the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, in which boar-adorned helmets are mentioned five times.[17][18][19][20] Three passages[21] appear to describe examples that, like the Benty Grange helmet, are topped with a freestanding boar.[22][23][24][note 1] After Æschere is killed by Grendel's mother, King Hrothgar's lamentation speaks of such helmets.

"Ne frin þu æfter sælum! Sorh is geniwod
Denigea leodum. Dead is Æschere,
Yrmenlafes yldra broþor,
min runwita ond min rædbora,
eaxlgestealla, ðonne we on orlege
hafelan weredon, þonne hniton feþan,
eoferas cnysedan. Swylc scolde eorl wesan.
æþeling ærgod, swylc Æschere wæs!"

"Rest? What is rest? Sorrow has returned.
Alas for the Danes! Æschere is dead.
He was Yrmenlaf's elder brother
and a soul-mate to me, a true mentor,
my right-hand man when the ranks clashed
and our boar-crests had to take a battering
in the line of action. Æschere was everything
the world admires in a wise man and a friend."

Old English text[31] —English translation[32][note 2]

The devastation wrought by Grendel's mother itself invokes a boar-crested helmet, for "[h]er onslaught was less only by as much as an amazon warrior's strength is less than an armed man's when the hefted sword, its hammered edge and gleaming blade slathered in blood, razed the sturdy boar-ridge off a helmet" (Wæs se gryre læssa efne swa micle, swa bið mægþa cræft, wiggryre wifes be wæpnedmen, þonne heoru bunden, hamere geþruen, sweord swate fah swin ofer helme ecgum dyhtig andweard scireð.[33][note 3]). These two passages likely refer to boar-crests like those found on the Benty Grange and Wollaston helmets,[22][23][28] and the detached Guilden Morden boar.[34][35]


  1. ^ In the other two instances boars are referred to in the plural,[25] such as when Beowulf and his men leave their ship as "[b]oar-shapes flashed above their cheek-guards".[26] (eoforlic scionon ofer hleorbergan[27]) These references were perhaps made with the intention of recalling boars like those on the eyebrows of the Sutton Hoo helmet.[22][23][28][29][30]
  2. ^ The boar-crested helmet is here evoked with the phrase eoferas cnysedan, "crushed the boars" [atop helmets].
  3. ^ The boar-crested helmet is here evoked with the phrase swin ofer helme, "pig above helmet".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bateman 1861, p. 28.
  2. ^ Howarth 1899, pp. iii, 242.
  3. ^ Lester 1987, pp. 34–35.
  4. ^ Bateman 1861.
  5. ^ Lester 1987, p. 34.
  6. ^ Bateman 1849, p. 276.
  7. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1974, pl. 73.
  8. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1974, p. 224.
  9. ^ a b Bateman 1861, p. 29.
  10. ^ Bateman 1861, p. 30.
  11. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1974, pp. 223–252.
  12. ^ Museums Sheffield.
  13. ^ Smith 1852, p. 241.
  14. ^ Bateman 1861, pp. 32–33.
  15. ^ Steuer 1987, pp. 199–203, 230–231.
  16. ^ Tweddle 1992, pp. 1083, 1086.
  17. ^ Beowulf, ll. 303–306, 1110–1112, 1286, 1327–1328, 1448–1454.
  18. ^ Hatto 1957a, pp. 155–156.
  19. ^ Speake 1980, p. 80.
  20. ^ Bateman 1861, p. 33.
  21. ^ Beowulf, ll. 1110–1112, 1286, 1327–1328.
  22. ^ a b c Cramp 1957, pp. 62–63.
  23. ^ a b c Davidson 1968, p. 354.
  24. ^ Chaney 1970, pp. 123–124.
  25. ^ Beowulf, ll. 303–306, 1448–1454.
  26. ^ Heaney 2000, pp. 21–23.
  27. ^ Beowulf, ll. 303–304.
  28. ^ a b Chaney 1970, p. 123.
  29. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1972, p. 122.
  30. ^ Bruce-Mitford 1974, p. 200.
  31. ^ Beowulf, ll. 1322–1329.
  32. ^ Heaney 2000, p. 93.
  33. ^ Beowulf, ll. 1282–1287.
  34. ^ Frank 2008, pp. 78–79.
  35. ^ Hatto 1957b, p. 258.


  • Bateman, Thomas (1849). "Description of the Contents of a Saxon Barrow". The Journal of the British Archaeological Association. IV: 276–279. Retrieved 17 September 2017.  open access publication – free to read
  • Bateman, Thomas (1861). Ten Years' Digging in Celtic and Saxon Grave Hills, in the counties of Derby, Stafford, and York, from 1848 to 1858; with notices of some former discoveries, hitherto unpublished, and remarks on the crania and pottery from the mounds. London: John Russell Smith. pp. 28–33. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  • Beowulf. n.d. 
  • Old English quotations above use the Klaeber text, published as Klaeber, Friedrich (1922). Beowulf and The Fight at Finnsburg. Boston: D.C. Heath & Company.  open access publication – free to read
  • Bruce-Mitford, Rupert (Autumn 1972). "The Sutton Hoo Helmet: A New Reconstruction". The British Museum Quarterly. British Museum. XXXVI (3–4): 120–30. JSTOR 4423116.  closed access publication – behind paywall
  • Bruce-Mitford, Rupert (1974). Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology: Sutton Hoo and Other Discoveries. London: Victor Gollancz. ISBN 0-575-01704-X. 
  • Chaney, William A. (1970). The Cult of Kinship in Anglo-Saxon England: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 
  • Cramp, Rosemary J. (1957). "Beowulf and Archaeology" (PDF). Medieval Archaeology. Society for Medieval Archaeology. 1: 57–77. doi:10.5284/1000320.  open access publication – free to read
  • Davidson, Hilda Ellis (1968). "Archaeology and Beowulf". In Garmonsway, George Norman & Simpson, Jacqueline. Beowulf and its Analogues. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. pp. 350–360. OCLC 421931242. 
  • Frank, Roberta (2008). "The Boar on the Helmet". In Karkov, Catherine E. & Damico, Helen. Aedificia Nova: Studies in Honor of Rosemary Cramp. Publications of the Richard Rawlinson Center. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University. pp. 76–88. ISBN 978-1-58044-110-0. 
  • Hatto, Arthur Thomas (August 1957a). "Snake-swords and Boar-helmets in Beowulf". English Studies. XXXVIII (4): 145–160. doi:10.1080/00138385708596994.  closed access publication – behind paywall
  • Hatto, Arthur Thomas (December 1957b). "Notes and News: Snake-swords and Boar-helmets". English Studies. XXXVIII (6): 257–259. doi:10.1080/00138385708597004.  closed access publication – behind paywall
  • Heaney, Seamus (2000). Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: W. W. Norton. 
  • "Helmet from Benty Grange". I Dig Sheffield. Museums Sheffield. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  • Howarth, Elijah (1899). Catalogue of the Bateman Collection of Antiquities in the Sheffield Public Museum. London: Dulau and Co. 
  • Lester, Geoff (Fall 1987). "The Anglo-Saxon Helmet from Benty Grange, Derbyshire" (PDF). Old English newsletter. 21 (1): 34–35. ISSN 0030-1973. 
  • Smith, Charles Roach (1852). "Anglo-Saxon and Frankish Remains". Collectanea Antiqua. II: 203–248. Retrieved 17 September 2017.  open access publication – free to read
  • Speake, George (1980). Anglo-Saxon Animal Art. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-813194-6. 
  • Steuer, Heiko (1987). "Helm und Ringschwert: Prunkbewaffnung und Rangabzeichen germanischer Krieger". In Häßler, Hans-Jürgen. Studien zur Sachsenforschung [Saxon Research Studies]. 6. Hildesheim: Lax. pp. 13–21. ISBN 978-3-7848-1617-3.  (in German) open access publication – free to read
  • Tweddle, Dominic (1992). The Anglian Helmet from 16–22 Coppergate (PDF). The Archaeology of York. 17/8. London: Council for British Archaeology. ISBN 978-1-872414-19-5.  open access publication – free to read
  • Way, Albert (1855). "Notice of a Bronze Relique, Assigned to the Later Roman or the Saxon Age, Discovered at Leckhampton, Gloucestershire". The Archaeological Journal. The Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. XII: 7–21.  open access publication – free to read

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