Evening Echo
February 6, 2004

KING OF SOUTHEND - Inside his lavish burial chamber

King's tomb reveals his Christian secret


ARCHAEOLOGISTS have described the Anglo Saxon king's burial chamber discovered beneath the streets of Southend as being of "international importance".

Remnants of the national treasure found beside Priory Park, Prittlewell, was yesterday unveiled in a special conference at the Museum of London.

Council leader Howard Briggs said: "This truly is an amazing find. It's hard to believe that for hundreds of years, a king has been laying in Southend, untouched by all of the things going on around him.

"The opportunity for the public to see these spectacular finds is a real bonus of the work we are doing in advance of the prospective Priory Crescent road improvement scheme."

Archaeologists made the find last year during a routine inspection of the verge between Priory Crescent and the railway line in anticipation of a road expansion scheme.

English Heritage pumped in cash to help with the excavation after the importance of the site had become clear.

David Miles, chief archaeologist at English Heritage, said: "This is a discovery of international importance which stunningly illuminates the rich and complex world of the so-called Dark Ages."

Archaeologists from Southend Museum teamed up with experts from the Museum of London to painstakingly unearth the chamber and treasures therein.

Ian Blair, who carried out the work for the Museum of London Archaeology Service, said: "Preliminary study suggests that the king was buried in the early years of the 7th Century. THe body, all remains of which had disappeared, was laid in a wood lined chamber surrounded by his possessions.

"These included bronze cauldrons and flagons, a sword and shield, and drinking vessels as well as other personal items, many of them fixed in place on the walls of the chamber by iron pegs.

"Two foil crosses, probably originally laid on the body or sewn to a shroud, suggest that the king had converted from paganism to Christianity.

"Originally, the wooden tomb chamber was covered by a shallow mound by this collapsed into the chamber sealing all of the objects in place."

Experts reveal thrills of once-in-lifetime find

ARCHAEOLOGISTS yesterday recounted the exciting days in which they realised the worldwide importance of the discovery.

During a tense press conference at the Museum of London, archaeologists and curators described the painstaking process of uncovering a goldmine of historical artefacts.

The Museum of London's senior archaeologist Ian Blair who headed the dig, said his team was carrying out a routine inspection of the Priory Crescent site before a proposed road expansion.

He said: "We were planning a nine-week excavation of the site, but in the first week we realised we were onto something big.

"We discovered one of the copper alloy hanging bowls from the chamber. Day by day, week by week more and more objects were revealed. The atmosphere on the site was very intense, and we obviously all realised the potential significance of the finds."

Ken Crowe, keeper of human history at Southend Museum, said: "It was truly fantastic.

"You only come across something like this once in a lifetime."

TV's Time Team set to see royal site

TELEVISION archaeological show Time Team is on the way to Southend to see the ancient king's final resting place.

Actor Tony Robinson will visit the important Essex site to lead the drive for further historical finds.

The popular Channel 4 show is set to visit the town in the near future.

Sian Price, from the Channel 4 show Time Team, said: "Tony Robinson is going to Soutehnd to support the protesters and campaign for more excavation.

"He could even join the fright against the development."

Back to News Page
Back to Home Page