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Post of the week: the Milton Regis Pendant

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Phyllis:
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week. This month I have been running a series on the theme of Seasonal Gifts, taking a look at important Anglo-Saxon treasures. The Milton Regis Pendant proved incredibly popular this week with almost 1000 people reading about it. Here’s what they read:


Let’s take a look at another item on the Anglo-Saxonist Christmas Gift List: the 7th century garnet and cloisonné pendant from Milton Regis in Kent. This summary is taken from the report from “Archaeologica Cantiana” Vol 78 1963 by Sonia Chadwick Hawkes and L. R. A. Grove.

The pendant is 4 cm long with a cabochon garnet enclosed in a gold collar and a cloisonné frame. The frame is divided into four main sections by rectangular cells, at top, bottom, and sides, two of which still contain insets of millefiori glass, blue in one and olive brown in the other. The intervening panels in the lower half of the frame contain cell-work of honeycomb pattern, set with flat-cut garnets; in the upper half, the pattern consists of tiny round cells joined together and to the edges of the frame by straight cloisons; the roundels contain minute discs of lapis lazuli, the flanking cells flat-cut garnets. All the garnets in the frame have been mounted on paste and backed with chequered gold foil, a device used to lend brilliance to the stones and bring up their colour. The large central stone, on the other hand, has been set directly on to the gold back plate, and, being thick, appears dark by contrast. The suspension loop has beaded edges and mid-rib, and between them have been soldered twisted wires (four on one side, three on the other) that make a pseudo-plait pattern. The base of the loop at the back has been neatly finished off by an arc of beaded wire. No rivet is visible, and the loop has evidently been soldered on. Although very effective and showy, this pendant shows signs of clumsy craftsmanship: the width of the frame is variable, and the cloisons are irregularly arranged. It is also somewhat damaged: two mosaic glass, and several garnet and lapis lazuli settings are missing, and the suspension loop is almost cut through at the top, presumably through long friction against the thread of the necklace. Some of this damage may be the result of modern use of the pendant since 1916. Pendants consisting of cabochon garnets in simple gold or silver settings are not uncommon in the richer seventh-century Englishwomen's graves, but their stones are rarely so large and they do not normally have cloisonné frames. And when frames do occur, as on  the latticed  glass  pendant  from  Riseley,  Horton  Kirby,20  or  the   millefioripendant  from  Sibertswold  (see below),  they  are  simpler  than  this  one. The  use  of two  different  cell-patterns  in  this  fashion  is  most  unusual. I can find no exact parallel for that on the upper part of the frame, but the  honeycomb  cell-work in the  lower part  is at  once recognizable. It is  one  of the  chief  characteristics  of  a  small  group  of  large  composite brooches,  from  Faversham,  Kent,  and  Milton-by-Abingdon,  in  Berkshire.

These  brooches  are  probably  the  latest  of the  series,  and  are generally  dated  to  the  middle  years  of the  seventh  century.  The use of millefiori,  learnt  apparently from  the  makers  of the  enamelled  Celtic Hanging  Bowls, is  extremely  rare  on Anglo-Saxon  jewellery.    Though an  attempt  to  simulate  it  can be inferred  from  the  treatment  of three of  the  garnets  on the  Kingston  brooch, it  is not a feature of any of the early  seventh-century   Kentish   jewellery.    The  Sutton  Hoo  jeweller may  well  have  been  the  first  English  craftsman  to  employ  it,  and  he was certainly the  only one to  do so with artistic success. The attempt on  the  Milton  pendant   is  crude  by  comparison;  nevertheless,   it  is important  since  it  seems  to  be  the  only  other  piece  of Anglo-Saxon jewellery  where  millefiori  is  used  in  cloisonné  work.    Otherwise  it  is found  only  on  beads,  and  on  two  Kentish  pendants,  where  it  is  used mosaic-wise to  cover the  entire  surface  of a  flat  disc.    These  pendants are  of  chronological importance  because they  belong to  two  of the  all too  rare  coin-associated  grave  groups.    One  is  from  the  Sarre  1860 grave, together with the  famous  composite brooch, amethyst  beads, a Coptic  bowl,  and  looped  gold  solidi  of  the  emperors  Maurice  Tiberius (582-602), Heraclius  (610-641) and the Frankish king Clotair II  (613-628). The other  very  similar  example,  mentioned  above, is from  Sibertswold grave  172,  and  was part  of  a  necklace  consisting  of  cabochon  garnet, amethyst  and  latticed  glass pendants,  a gold pendant,  and  two looped Merovingian  tremisses from  the  mints  of Marsal and Verdun. It  has recently been suggested that the  Sarre  coins, three minted  at Marseilles and  the  other  at  Aries,  were  brought  to  England  from  the  south  of France,  as an  already  constituted  group, in about  620 A.D.26    Since we cannot  be  sure  when the  latest  of these  coins  was  struck,  whether  in 613 or some years later, I  feel  this  date  may be too  early.    However, it  is the  date of burial  which concerns us here, and this, to  judge  from the  amount  of  wear  on  the  coins  and  their  loops,  must  have  been somewhat  later,  possibly  nearer   650  than   620.   The  coins  on   the Sibertswold  necklace  are  even  more  difficult  to  date,  since  they  are examples  of a non-regal Merovingian coinage whose chronology is still disputed. For  our  present  purpose  it  must   suffice  to  say that  the majority  opinion  is that  the  Sibertswold  coins must  have  been buried after  650.    Millefiori  may therefore have made its  appearance  in  Kent towards  the  middle  of the  seventh  century,  and  its  presence  on  the Milton  pendant,  in  combination  with  the  similarly  dated  honeycomb cell-work,  suggests that  this  too  is a  work of the  mid seventh  century at earliest.

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