Rugby Beekeepers Association were approached in 2018 by Pieta Greaves of Drakon Heritage and Conservation. They were looking for local beeswax that could be used in a project focusing on reconstructions of a high-status helmet contained within the Staffordshire Hoard. The project aimed to showcase how the original may have looked and to provide valuable research on the methods used in its construction and evidence of beeswax was found in the original objects during research in both the crest and on the lower design panel.

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever discovered and it was found in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield in Staffordshire, in 2009.

The two helmet reconstructions have now been completed and they are on permanent display at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which care for the collection on behalf of the joint owners Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council.

The very high status helmet, which constitutes approximately a third of the 4000+ pieces of the 7th century hoard was heavily damaged before it was buried but it was clear that the detail and bold crested design meant that the Staffordshire Hoard Helmet was likely to have had an important owner. Helmets of this period are incredibly rare - there are only five other Anglo-Saxon helmets known such as the Sutton Hoo helmet that is in the British Musuem.

Some major elements of the original helmet are missing though, including the steel base which provided the shape, and the surviving parts are too damaged and incomplete to reassemble the original physically. Instead, the project explored how the helmet may have been made and what it looked like, enabling archaeologists to understand its construction better and test theories about its structure and assembly.

The reconstructions have taken 18 months and were created by a team of specialist makers. The School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University led on the fabrication of the precious metal elements of the helmet. Laser scanning of the original objects was used to ensure the replica pieces are as close to the surviving original parts as possible. Other specialists, including Royal Oak Armoury, Gallybagger Leather, Drakon Heritage and Conservation and metalsmith Samantha Chilton, worked collaboratively to bring the helmet to life, advised by the archaeologists.

Staffordshire Hoard Helmet reconstruction Hair with beeswax and linen attached. © Image Copyright Drakon Heritage and Conservation
Click For A Larger Image

Steel, leather and horsehair elements were created, as well as the wood and paste, that scientific analysis of the original has revealed were used in its construction.

Rugby Beekeepers Association supplied beeswax in varying grades to Drakon Heritage and Conservation (a member of the reconstruction team) to aid in the experimentation in making the paste that was used to adhere the horsehair crest and the rendering process was documented and photographed for the benefit of the project's records.

Staffordshire Hoard Helmet reconstruction Decayed beeswax. © Image Copyright Drakon Heritage and Conservation
Click For A Larger Image

Before it was used, the beeswax on the original helmet was also mixed with calcium carbonate and hoof glue to make a paste. It is thought that this contributed to the long-term properties of the paste and helped improve its flexibility and to stop the movement of pieces if the beeswax shrank or expanded as a result of environmental changes.

If you get the chance, we urge you to embark on a rewarding visit of the displays of the helmets and original hoard items. You will find them at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.


BeeBase

Beebase News Web feed
  • LAST CHANCE: to answer our survey on how training and information sources for beekeepers and bee farmers can be improved
    20 April 2021
    With thanks to those of you who have already responded. For those of who haven’t yet had chance to answer the survey there is still time but it closes tomorrow. For further details please see below.

    Gyda diolch i'r rhai ohonoch sydd eisoes wedi ymateb. I'r rhai nad ydynt wedi cael cyfle eto i ateb yr arolwg mae amser o hyd ond mae'n cau yfory. Am fanylion pellach gweler isod.

    Defra and the Welsh Government want to ensure that beekeepers and bee farmers have access to training and information that can help them implement effective biosecurity and maintain good standards of husbandry, so as to minimise pest and disease risks and improve the sustainability of honeybee populations.

    A short questionnaire is available for current beekeepers, people who have recently stopped keeping bees as well as bee farmers to give their views and opinions on the type, accessibility and range of training and information available and how it could be improved. It should take no more than 15 minutes.

    Please go to https://eu5se.voxco.com/S2/87/healthy_bees/ to complete the survey by 21 April.

    Defnyddiwch y ddolen hon i gwblhau'r arolwg erbyn 21/04/2021.
  • Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) Vacancies
    19 April 2021
    The National Bee Unit currently has a number of Seasonal Bee Inspector (SBI) vacancies advertised in the following areas South Kent & East Sussex, South West Devon and South East Wales

    If you are interested in applying for the job, full details can be found on Civil Service Jobs.


  • Reporting Varroa
    12 April 2021
    Amendments to the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (England) Order 2006, the Bees Diseases and Pest Control (Scotland) Order 2007 and the Bee Diseases and Pests Control (Wales) Order 2006 come into force on the 21st of April 2021 requiring all beekeepers and/or officials in GB to report the presence of Varroa in any of the hives that they manage. This amendment will allow Great Britain to comply with the Animal Health Law which is necessary for future working relationships with the European Union.

    To make this simple, a tick box will be introduced to BeeBase, the voluntary register for beekeepers managed by the National Bee Unit. This will be the easiest way to report Varroa but an alternative mechanism will be provided for those who do not wish to register on the BeeBase system. Details of this alternative system will be provided after 21st April. If Scottish Beekeepers wish to, they can report varroa by contacting the Scottish Bee Health Inspectors (BeesMailbox@gov.scot).

    Although Varroa is known to be widespread, it continues to be one of the most serious pests faced by beekeepers. Reporting Varroa will contribute to the overall pest and disease surveillance work of the National Bee Unit and the Scottish Bee Health Inspectorate. We are grateful for your assistance with this new simple measure.

    No action will be required until after 21st April.