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15 March 2022

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Jewellery, Watches and Objects of Vertu

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№ 103


15 March 2022

Hammer Price:

The Throckenholt Cross - An early Medieval gold cross pendant, 11th-12th century, the Latin cross composed of arms of triple tiered ropetwist wires with trefoil terminals and beaded detail, with four further bead highlights at the point of intersection, to a broad reeded suspensory loop; applied to the centre is a slightly later Medieval (13th century) vacant lozenge-shaped setting, pendant length 31mm. £6,000-£8,000

This cross was found by a detectorist in Sutton St. Edmund, Lincolnshire in 2019.

The parish of Sutton St. Edmund includes the hamlet of Throckenholt, where a hermitage and chapel were granted to Thorney Abbey, by Nigel, Bishop of Ely (1133-69). It is probable that there had been a hermitage here for some time, as the Red Book of Thorney states that Throckenholt had been used as a hermitage since 1107. The hermitage is mentioned again in 1189-97 and 1348. In 1293-1305, Abbot Odo of Thorney ordered that two or three monks should reside there as had previously been the case. The chapel stood where Throckenholt farmhouse now stands, fragments of stone, bones and other relics having been found on the site at various times. It survived until at least 1540 when it is shown on a map of Wisbech Hundred (the original is in Wisbech Museum).

This cross is of a form associated with Medieval Greek Othodoxy in the Eastern Baltic region. A very similar pendant is illustrated in Austin and Alcocks (ed.),
From the Baltic to the Black Sea: Studies in Medieval Archaeology, p 175, figure 10.6, row 5, no. 1. In the accompanying text on Medieval Britain it notes: “Accompanying the spread of Christianity, the archaeological material reveals small Orthodox (11th-14th centuries) and Catholic (12th-14th centuries) crosses, which were at first introduced from abroad.” The illustrated example was discovered in Denmark. In the medieval period Denmark formed part of the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in central and northern Europe, growing from a few north German towns in the late 12th century, to encompass nearly 200 settlements across seven modern-day countries at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries. Originally a loose association of traders and towns advancing their mutual commercial interests, these arrangements gradually coalesced into the Hanseatic League, a cohesive political organization by the end of the 13th century, whose traders enjoyed duty-free treatment, protection, and diplomatic privileges in affiliated communities and their trade routes. During the peak of its power, the Hanseatic League had a virtual monopoly over maritime trade in the North and Baltic seas. King’s Lynn, on the North Sea coast, just 20 miles from Sutton St. Edmund, provided a significant enclave and trading partner for the Hanseatic League, housing a representative merchant and a League warehouse, and this may provide a possible explanation for the link between these two very similar crosses.

This cross is recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, Ref:
NMS-06E591, and has subsequently been disclaimed as Treasure (2019-T379).