Hornsea 'Anglo-Saxon' Cemetery
In 1913, whilst building a bowling green for the newly built Hornsea Hydro-Hotel, a number of early Anglo-Saxon burials were discovered. Thomas Sheppard, the then curator of Hull Museums, excavated a total of twelve skeletons from the site. No further exploration of the cemetery was made until 70 years later when further building work in the area brought about the discovery of another six burials.
Ten of the original burials were placed in a row, aligned East to West. The remaining two lay at either end of a possible parallel row to the north. Seven of these burials were extended. This means the body has been placed with the spine and leg bones in more or less a straight line. Whilst the remainder were crouched - the hip and knee joints had been bent through more than 90 degrees.
These burials belong to the people who lived in Britain following the Roman occupation. They are often referred in history and archaeology as 'Anglo-Saxons'. They lived here during the 'Early-Medieval' period (around 410 - 800 AD). The cemetery in Hornsea dates to around the 6th century AD.
The Grave Goods
The people buried at Hornsea believed in an afterlife. Food and personal belongings were buried with them to aid them in their new life. Grave goods found at the cemetery include four beautiful copper alloy 'cruciform' (cross-shopped) brooches.
Other finds included copper alloy strap-fittings, a fine ornamented silver disc' the blade from an iron knife, a copper alloy buckle, a necklace of many coloured glass and ceramic beads and a jet spindle whorl. A bell was also discovered at the same time as the excavations but our archives suggest this was found in a nearby garden.
Three food vessels where also found alongside the burials. Unlike Anglo-Saxon cremation urns these vessels are plain without any trace of decoration. They are very similar to ordinary domestic vessels and would probably have contained food when placed with the burials.
The total size of the cemetery still remains unclear. In 1970 part of a bone comb was found at the foot of the cliffs to the north of the original site. This may suggest that the cemetery was spread over a much larger area than first anticipated. The finds from the cemetery are now part of Hull & East Riding Museums collections and are searchable through our online database.
An early account of the excavations suggest that various small beads and one or two copper alloy brooches had been divided up amongst the workmen prior to Thomas Sheppard's arrival on site. It could even be possible that some of the missing grave goods are still in the workers families today. So, if you have a family connection to Hornsea, you never know what you could find lurking at the back of your cupboard!