There were many types of weapons used by Anglo-Saxons from the 5th to 11th centuries. Many weapons had more of a symbolic value than practical utility. Helmets were used to protect the head from the blow of the enemy.
Helmets were not much common in Anglo-Saxon England as indicated by pieces of evidence, although the use of helmets became more widespread in the 11th century.
An edict was issued by Cnut the Great which stated that the use of helmets was compulsory for all warriors. This edict came in 1008. The Anglo Saxon ruler Aethelred ordered the manufacturing of helmets in the same era.
Four mostly intact Anglo-Saxon helmets have been discovered by archeologists. These helmets are distinct from one another in their ornamentation and construction. They provide a glimpse at what Anglo Saxon helmets must have looked like.
Sutton Hoo Helmet
The earliest example of the Anglo Saxon helmets was found in Sutton Hoo from a burial dating back to the 7th century. Cheek pieces were attached to the helmet’s bowl which was made of metal.
There were a face mask and a metal neck guard. The helmet is well decorated with a wing dragon on a faceplate soaring upwards to confront a two-headed dragon running across the crest. There were five designs made from foiled sheets of tinned bronze. The decorations on the helmet are similar to other helmets found in Scandinavia and Germany.
Benty Grange Helmet
This helmet is boar-crested and also dates from the 7th century. The outside of the helmet is covered by an iron framework with plates of the horn. The inside was made of cloth or leather. It was probably used for protection as well as for ceremonial purposes.
The most distinct feature of this helmet is the boar at its apex. This pagan symbol faces toward the Christian cross on the nasal in a display of religious syncretism. This shows the gradual conversion of Anglo-Saxons from their pagan beliefs to Christianity.
Pioneer Helmet is also called the Wollaston Helmet or Northamptonshire Helmet. It is also a boar-crested Anglo-Saxon helmet. It is sparsely decorated, unlike other discovered helmets. The boar atop the crest is its distinctive feature.
The boar invoked the protection of God in a Germanic tradition. This helmet is named after Pioneer Aggregates UK Ltd which funded its excavation and conservation. It consists of an iron skull cap from which two cheek guards hang.
The style of belt buckles found in the Pioneer Helmet shows that it was used in the 7th century around 675. It is known as one of the crested helmets in Northern Europe in the 7th century.
This helmet is also known as the York Helmet. It is the best-surviving helmet of all helmets found in England. The construction of this helmet is the most complex among extant Anglo Saxon helmets. It comprises an iron skull cap with brass edging and decorations, two iron cheek guards with brass edging, and camail protecting the neck.
There are eight iron components of this helmet with four different brass edging. Two cheek guards were suspended from the cap. The helmet also displays symbolic syncretism with Latin words of Christian prayers on it as well as two interlaced beasts on the nasal which are pagan symbols.
Anglo-Saxon Helmets *Fast Facts
Anglo-Saxon leader ‘Cnut the Great’ issued an edict that all Anglo-Saxon warriors should wear helmets in the year 1008.
Anglo-Saxon ruler Aethelred instigated the mass manufacture of helmets for Anglo-Saxon warriors.
Four types of Anglo-Saxon helmets were manufactured the Sutton Hoo helmet, Benty Grange helmet, Pioneer helmet, coppergate helmet.
The earliest Anglo-Saxon helmet was the Sutton Hoo helmet which dated back to the seventh century.
The Coppergate helmet is the best surviving helmet of all Anglo-Saxon helmets found in England.