Could Saxon relics prove ancient battle took place at Cuckney?

Paul Jameson, chairman of the Battle of Hatfield  Society ouside Cuckney church where hundreds of skeletons are believed to be buried.
Paul Jameson, chairman of the Battle of Hatfield Society ouside Cuckney church where hundreds of skeletons are believed to be buried.

A treasure trove of Saxon artefacts thought to have been discovered at Cuckney in the 1960s could help solve the mystery of an ancient battle.

Paul Jameson of the Battle of Hatfield Investigation Society (BOHIS) is investigating rumours that an ancient sword handle and other items were found at St Mary’s Church in the 1960s.

He wants to jog the memory of Chad readers to see if anyone can help him with information about the finds.

If the rumours are true it could help confirm that 200 skeletons found buried at the site were from the Battle of Hatfield, where King Edwin of Northumbria died alongside his son Osfrith in 632AD.

Paul said: “It would be wonderful if this mystery could be resolved and amazing if it led to the re-discovery of the artefacts.”

Paul Jameson said he first learned of the 1960s finds when BOHIS was taking part in a recent archaeological investigation at the site.

He said; “In November 2015 at St. Mary’s church, Cuckney, a gentleman approached and told he had read an article in a local newspaper, when he was a passenger on a bus from Worksop to Mansfield, in the early 1960s.

“This detailed that as part of a youth scheme, a group of young people were helping to clear and tidy the graveyard.

“Under a hedgerow they found a sword pommel and other artefacts which were possibly Saxon.”

He said the tale has since been corroborated by a friend who had also read the story.

Unfortunately, neither could remember which local paper nor had kept a copy of the article.

BOHIS has spent three years trying to resolve the mystery of the skeletons discovered in mass burial pits by subsidence contractors at St. Mary’s Church, Cuckney in 1950/51.

Hotspots found by ground penetrating radar have been published which could pinpoint the final resting place of an estimated 800 warriors killed in the Battle of Hatfield.

The battle is thought to have been a turf war over disputed territory pre-arranged between Edwin of Northumbria and Cadwallon of Gwynedd (who may have joined forces with Penda of Mercia). It was a pivotal battle and the leaders controlled a sizeable portion of England, Scotland and Wales.

After BOHIS was awarded a Heritage Lottery grant in 2015, they were finally able to gather evidence via non-invasive archaeology.

Teh group is now seeking permission from St Mary’s Parochial Church Council (PCC) and Southwell Diocese and funding for the next phase of their investigation which will entail digs on the site.

Paul added: “Excitingly, the story of the Saxon artefacts could link to the finding of the skeletons and possibly date them as Saxon.

“The society was advised by the gentleman that the article had appeared in the Mansfield Chad, the Worksop Guardian or possibly the Derbyshire Times.”

The group has found nothing in the Chad from the early 1960s to support the claims but in 1966-7 two articles were found.

The first reported that a Faculty had been “asked for” and then awarded in May 1966 for a partial clearance of St. Mary’s church yard.

St Mary’s Parochial Church Council has now provided a map, detailing the proposed works which shows the location of five gravestones prior to their re-positioning as part of the clearance in 1966.

There were no further finds of related articles in the Chad although it was thought that logically there would be a follow up story if anything was discovered.

Paul added; “We want to know if anyone has a recollection of this article or these artefacts - and who passed the story to the newspapers.

“Was the 1966 church yard clearance carried out by or with the help of a “YOPS” type scheme?

“It is likely that any artefacts would have passed into the possession of a museum or other facility. Mansfield Museum said they do not have any Saxon Artefacts.

“It would be wonderful if this mystery could be resolved and amazing if it led to the re-discovery of the artefacts.

“If they were then dated and found to be associated with the early Saxon period, then this may provide greater impetus to the imminent requests for another faculty for sampling work and for further Heritage Lottery Fund funding.”

If anyone can help, BOHIS can be contacted at http://battleofhatfield.webs.com/contact-us, alternatively, ring Paul Jameson on 07894 297206.