The Rampside Swords
Later, in 1909, another sword was discovered buried beneath the ground. Jacob Helm and his son Thomas were digging a grave in the churchyard when they made the discovery. It lay about 2 feet 6 inches beneath the surface and had about 6 inches of the blade still intact, although about half missing. It bears a guard, handle and part of a pommel (see image) and is of typical Viking design. Interestingly this sword, in difference to most other swords of the time, only has one edge.
Both these finds suggest Viking settlement here in Furness with accompanying burials. The question however is whether these burials took place in the early Viking age or later when Christianity started to take hold. It is believed that the owner of the second Rampside sword may well have been a converted Norse man and was buried in consecrated ground around an early christian church.
The Furness Hoard
|Image courtesy of the Dock Museum.|
Buried beneath the soil next to a large limestone rock (quite the marker) was a large selection of silver coins, ingots and arm rings all from the Viking Age, 92 pieces altogether.
The coins are from varying dates ranging from around 947, and the reign of Eric Bloodaxe, to around 955 and the reign of Eadwig.
In it's time the hoard was likely worth around 50 sheep, which was a high sum. This could give reason as to why it was buried.
Although no-one can ever be sure why it was buried, and what happened to the owner, there certainly are some theories. One theory is that this was the personal bank account, as it were, of a local person. The money buried under a marker so the owner knew where it was when needed but it was kept safe from thieves. This could have weight as the hoard was buried close to an ancient area of settlement, maybe a local would dig up the hoard every now and then to add more coins to it. The Viking equivalent of a savings account! Personally this is my favored theory although we will no doubt never know the truth.
The hoard is often described as the "missing link" as it sheds new light on Viking habitation in the area and is an extremely important find.
If you want to see the hoard yourself then you can! It is on display in the Dock Museum, Barrow. It is well worth taking a look at and pondering how it came to be buried beneath the earth and forgotten about all those years ago!
Two lead weights have been found across Furness, the most recent being beautifully decorated (see image) and found near Dalton-in-Furness. Lead weights like this were used to weigh out goods before sale and show that there was certainly Viking trade happening in the area.
The other weight found is decorated in a celtic knott work design with gold finish. Another fine example and another piece in the puzzle.
Both weights are on display, with the hoard, inside the Dock Museum.
This fragment is still retained inside Urswick Church but is not on display to visitors.
There have been other, smaller finds, over the years also from a hollow copper alloy head found near Furness Abbey, believed to be an early religious decoration which would adorn a chair, to various Spindle whorls, the weighted bases of wool spinning tools.
All of these finds, although few in number, start to paint a picture of the Vikings in Furness. The evidence of their place names surviving through time to influence our modern world, the small finds which give evidence of their trade in the area and their lost and forgotten hoard which shows the Viking way of life had spread to the area. Whether the owners of these items were actually of Norse decent may never be known but whoever they were they certainly had adopted the Viking way of life.
So, were the Vikings ever in Furness? You can be certain they were! Let us hope though that in time more work is carried out and new evidence is discovered which will fill in the gaps and complete the puzzle of the Norse men in Furness...