An Anglo-Saxon pale green glass bucket from Bury St Edmunds
Provenance: Found in an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Westgarth Gardens, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, 1972 Ex Decmar Properties, England Ex British Rail Pension Fund Collection, London
Exhibited: Broadfield House Glass Museum, Kinswinfold, W. Midlands, September 1987 - January 1988 Pilkington Glass Museum, St Helens, Lancashire, January - March 1988
On Loan: Moyses Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, 1972-1976 Moyses Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, 1977-1992 The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, 1992-1996
Published: Webster and Cherry 1973, p.149 Sothebys 1977, p.22, lot 61 Harden 1978, pp.5-6, pl. IIIa, fig.2 Strange and Rare 1987, p.2, no.C West 1988, pp.36-7, pl.VIII, illus. on front cover Sothebys 1997, pp.77-8, lot 33 Evison 2000, pp.50 & 61, fig.2,17, pl.1c
Literature: This exceedingly important piece was discovered in a grave in 1972 during building work at Westgarth Gardens on the western edge of Bury St Edmunds. The excavation of the site revealed part of an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery containing sixty-eight graves, all but four of which were inhumations, that date from the early 5th to mid - or late 7th Century, thereby covering the period of both pagan and early Christian settlement. For a full discussion of the excavation and the finds see West 1988. A few objects from the excavation were retained by the developers, Decmar Properties, and left on loan to the Moyses Hall Museum until they were auctioned by Sothebys in 1977, but the bucket was redeposited on loan to the museum by the British Rail Pension Fund.
The bucket came from Grave 62 - a large rectangular grave of an adult male that also contained an iron shield boss from a wooden shield with a textile grip, which had been placed over the deceaseds face, an iron spearhead, a small iron knife with traces of a wooden handle found point down at the waist and a conical iron ferula with a spatulate end (West 1988, pp.36-7).
The basic form and decoration of the bucket, which is wholly functional, fits easily into the early series of cone beakers dating from the late 4th to 5th Century A.D. (Evison 2000, p.61). It probably represents a development of the Roman vessel, Isings form 106b (1957, p.127), a straight-sided cone with a wide, kicked base, diagonal ribbing and horizontal trailing applied below the rim which have a distribution on the Upper Rhine, The Meuse and Moselle (ibid.).
Donald Harden (1978, pp.5-6) wrote that the nearest parallels in shape to this unique piece were not to be found in Teutonic but in late metropolitan Roman glass. He cited as examples the two glass buckets or situlae preserved in the Treasury of St Marks in Venice. The first of these is a greenish glass cage-cup with a frieze of two huntsmen above an openwork cage, which also has a contemporary bronze bucket-handle (Harden and Toynbee 1959, p.204, no.A3, pl.65; Hahnloser 1971, no.13). The second is a 4th Century deep purplish-brown bucket decorated with a wheel-cut Dionysiac frieze, again with a contemporary gilt-bronze bucket-handle (Treasury of San Marco 1984, pp.77-81, no.1; Glass of the Caesars 1987, pp.220-1, no.122). Harden also compared them to a bronze bucket from Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire, which was found with two blue glass jars (cf. Newby 2000). This is of a type thought to have been imported into western Europe from Coptic Egypt in the Dark Ages from the 7th Century, but which are known in Egypt and Sudan from at least the 5th Century or earlier (Harden 1978, p.6).