Archaeologists find "fantastic" wooden butter churn and stakes used by Pagan tribe in medieval Staffordshire

By Ben Miller | 22 May 2015

Pagan tribe in Mercian heartland would have used butter churn during time of changing climate in medieval Staffordshire

A photo of an ancient circular wooden archaeological artefact in a light grey ditch
A butter churn found in Staffordshire was once used by a Pagan tribe, say experts© Headland Archaeology
Wooden stakes and wood chips found beneath a £250 million rail development would have belonged to a Pagan tribe in Saxon Staffordshire, say archaeologists who used scientific tests on the lid of a wooden butter churn to date their discoveries to the period of the Mercian kingdom.

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of earth have been shifted near Norton Wood, where experts say a fragment of wood and the lid come from between 715-890 – contemporaneous to the Staffordshire Hoard.

“During this period this part of Staffordshire was part of the Mercian heartland and was populated by a pagan tribe called the Pencersaete,” says Dr Emma Tetlow, a Senior Archaeologist for Headland Archaeology at the site where Network Rail is building a new flyover and 11 bridges.

“Existing knowledge of this period for the north and east of the Midlands and the UK in general is very scarce, so this find is fantastic and of regional significance.

A photo of a woman in a high-visibility jacket chipping at a dark brown wall with a knife
Dr Tetlow undertook checks during ground works© Headland Archaeology
“This was a period of dynamic climate change culminating in the Medieval Warm Period. The weather patterns were similar to those we are experiencing today.

“It was increasingly unsettled and stormy with flooding and an increase in temperature.”

Evidence of prehistoric activity had already been detected in the section of waterlogged peat near Meece Road, as well as Victorian stoneware bottles emblazoned with the names of breweries from Bristol to Manchester.

“We’re looking forward to sharing and discussing some of these finds with the community,” says Matt Clark, the manager of the Staffordshire Alliance group which plans to hold an information day about the artefacts in June.

“Despite a challenging workload and at times some challenging weather, we’ve worked hard with Emma to safeguard archaeology at the site.

“It’s been fascinating so see what she’s uncovered.”

The building work will remove the last major bottleneck on the West Coast main line.

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Actually, I never said it was Pagan.
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