The Vikings are coming! Star finds to go on show in blockbuster exhibition at Norwich Castle

PUBLISHED: 10:40 07 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:40 07 September 2018

The Vale of York Hoard. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: :: CC BY-SA 4.0

The Vale of York Hoard. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: :: CC BY-SA 4.0

York Museums Trust

They almost certainly did not all storm into battle wearing horned helmets, but something the Vikings definitely did do was to shape every aspect of life in Britain, including in Norfolk.

The Coppergate Helmet, also known as the Anglian Helmet or the York Helmet. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: :: CC BY-SA 4.0The Coppergate Helmet, also known as the Anglian Helmet or the York Helmet. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: :: CC BY-SA 4.0

And, with the help of some of the most significant Viking treasures ever discovered in Britain, Norwich Castle is to host a blockbuster exhibition about the seafarers.

Viking: Rediscover The Legend will show that the Vikings were much more than the raiders they are often depicted as.

It will use hundreds of objects to offer a fresh perspective.

The exhibition, which will run at the castle museum for much of next year, will feature hundreds of star objects from the British Museum and the Yorkshire Museum, alongside those from Norfolk Museums Service’s own collection.

The Bedale Hoard. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: :: CC BY-SA 4.0The Bedale Hoard. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: :: CC BY-SA 4.0

Visitors will be able to gaze at some of the finest Viking and Anglo-Saxon discoveries made on these shores, including a remarkably well-preserved helmet - with no horns anywhere in sight.

The Anglian Helmet, also known as the York Helmet or Coppergate Helmet, was discovered during excavations in York before the JORVIK Viking Centre was built.

While, not strictly Viking, the eighth-century helmet was probably used by one of the Viking settlers of York into the late ninth century.

It was buried in a wood-lined pit, possibly because its owner wanted to hide it and remained underground until 1982.

Professor Alice Roberts. Picture: Norwich Science FestivalProfessor Alice Roberts. Picture: Norwich Science Festival

It is usually on public display in the Yorkshire Museum.

Also on its way to Norwich will be the astounding Vale of York Hoard.

Discovered by two metal detectorists in the Harrogate area of Yorkshire in 2007, it was the most important find of its kind in 150 years.

It was valued at more than £1m by the independent treasure valuation committee and acquired by the British Museum and York Museums Trust.

The hoard contains a mixture of different precious metal objects, including coins, complete ornaments, ingots (bars) and chopped-up fragments known as hack-silver.

Probably buried for safety by a wealthy Viking leader following the conquest of Northumbria by the Anglo Saxon king Athelstan in 927AD, it shows the diversity of cultural contacts in the medieval world.

The objects come from as far apart as Afghanistan in the east and Ireland in the west, as well as Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe.

The most spectacular single object is a gilt silver vessel, made in what is now France or western Germany around the middle of the ninth century.

It was apparently intended for use in church services, and was probably either looted from a monastery by Vikings, or given to them in tribute.

Most of the smaller objects were hidden inside this vessel, which was itself protected by some form of lead container. As a result, the hoard was extremely well-preserved.

It was the most important discovery since the a hoard found on the banks of the river Ribble in Lancashire in 1840.

And objects from that Cuerdale Hoard,which contains more than 7,000 coins and is one of the largest Viking silver hoards ever discovered, will also be on show at the Norwich castle exhibition.

So, too, will be the Bedale Hoard, found by metal detectorists in 2012.

It is one of the most significant and intriguing Viking-age hoards, with many of the pieces thought to be unique for the period.

The bulk of the hoard, believed to date from the late 9th or early 10th century, is made up of silver jewellery ranging from Ireland to Russia.

But there were also gold items, including an inlaid gold sword pommel - a fitting for the top of the sword handle, while a huge silver neck ring is one of the largest examples of its type ever found.

Television presenter and author Professor Alice Roberts said of the exhibition: “The Vikings are such an iconic part of our heritage and history.

“They tend to be portrayed as either bloodthirsty raiders or mercantile traders, but they were much more complex and interesting.

“This unique exhibition brings together objects which help us to understand them and their world.”

Viking: Rediscover The Legend will be on display at Norwich Castle Museum next year.

It will be on show from Saturday, February 9 until Sunday, September 8.

Norfolk and the Great War

Before the Vikings arrive, events closer to the modern day will be explored at Norwich Castle’s next exhibition.

Armistice: Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk is a major centenary exhibition commemorating the end of the First World War.

The displays will explore the breadth and depth of the effect of the war on Norwich and Norfolk, including zeppelin raids, the impact on the fishing industry and on agriculture.

More than 12,000 men of the county did not return and are commemorated on village memorials and school Rolls of Honour, while many more came back injured or forever changed by their experiences. The exhibition looks at the systems put in place to help them on their return.

Posters, photographs, archives and interactive displays will complement objects drawn from around the county for the exhibition.

The exhibition will run from Saturday, October 20 until Sunday, January 6.

Joining an impressive list

The Vikings exhibition will join a list of impressive exhibitions which Norwich Castle has hosted in recent years.

Some highlights included:

The Paston Treasure: Riches and Rarities of the Known World. On until September 23, the exhibition explores the world of the 17th century from the vantage point of the painting, which shows the art collection owned by the Paston family of Oxnead Hall.

The Square Box of the Hill: The Castle itself was the focus of this exhibition early this year.

Nelson & Norfolk: Last year’s major exhibition explored Norfolk’s naval hero.

Roman Empire: Power and People. Objects from the British Museum were among the archaeological finds which were displayed in the hugely popular 2014 exhibition.

The Wonder of Birds: Another one from 2014, this show explored the cultural impact of birds upon mankind.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press