Snettisham Iron Age Hoard

Lecturer: Jody Joy

Over the years a number of gold torcs have been found in the area close to Snettisham and although the early finds were fully documented the later ones were less studied. The British Museum have started a project to examine and document the full collection (to date) and Jody Joy talked us through the history of excavations, the objects found and some ideas about how the torcs came to be buried there and their significance.

The site only became know in the 1950s when a farmer unearthed a torc when ploughing, although he discarded it a part of a brass bedstead and threw it into the grass at the roadside. Thinking about it more overnight, he returned to examine it more closely and eventually, to take it to a local historian.

This led to a detailed study of the area and over the next decades a number of hoards of other torcs were found. Torcs are not unique to West Norfolk and are found in Ireland and on continental Europe too. Some 250 such torcs have been found to date, but of these 150 come from a very small area near Snettisham.

The torcs found at Snettisham seem to have been produced from as early as 300BC and continue to be made up until about 50BC. The neck ornaments are undoubtedly some sign of rank or status but who used them and on what occasions is still unknown. Examination of the wear patterns indicate that they were worn and removed a number of times and that they were worn the same way up each time.

The items found at Snettisham show an unparalleled mastery of the gold working craft. The Great Torc, for example, has 64 identical strands of gold 'cord' woven into 8 ropes of gold which are in turn wound into the backing of a the neck ornament. Other torcs demonstrate that the craftsmen could form hollow tubes of gold that were flexible enough to be worn and removed many times.

Although gold was a valuable commodity then (as it was highly mailable and didn't tarnish) it hadn't yet established the prestige that being in the coinage gave. As gold could be melted down easily, damaged or unwanted items were combined with others and then used to make new objects. This makes it difficult to determine the original origin of the gold.

The number of caches of torcs in a relatively small area suggests that the items were buried as part of a ritual or tradition. At the time of their deposit the sea level in the area would have been much higher and the raised land could well have formed a promontory extending out into the sea or tidal marshes.

Lecture Programme

The program of lectures for the next season can now be found under the 'Lectures' tab above.

Kettlewell Lane

Socially distanced visit and picnic

A successful picnic/guided visit to Kettlewell Lane and Littleport Street occurred on the first Sunday in October. But, at present no further events are organised.

WNKLAS In The News

The society has been in the local Newspapers recently in coverage of the conference to celebrate our 50year anniversary and also the presentation to John Smallwood one of the founders.

Press Article


King John's Treasure

The society's investigation of a local farm contributed to a programme made for US television as part of the Expedition Unknown series. This systematic survey of an area that was a likely route for the Royal Treasure was also the subject of a recent lecture evening.

More Information

The TV Programmes