Essex park reveals slice of Saxon past

Road widening scheme is halted as study unearths remains of ancient burial mound in Southend

A spectacular archaeological find in Essex has astounded experts, delighted a protest group and might possibly sink a road-widening scheme. The site has been identified as a king’s burial chamber from the early seventh century. Among the treasures recovered are buckles, gold coins, gold crosses, a flag, glass and copper bowls and drinking vessels. Some bowls were still hanging from hooks placed there 1,400 years ago. It is under a large verge outside the boundary fence of Priory Park at Prittlewell, Southend, a site where other artefacts have been found. What has excited experts is that the wood-lined burial chamber is complete — except for the body of the king, which has dissolved over the years. Southend Borough Council gave the green light to plans to widen Prittlewell Chase, the road between the park and the verge. This led to protests from local residents who objected to the scheme and were worried about the loss of mature trees and open space involved. It was a routine dig by a team from the Museum of London, which was on contract to the council. A team representative said: “We were called in as a matter of routine and it just happened to be that we sunk our first trenches across the site and found the chamber. “A number of items have been removed and are on display at the museum. They will go on show in Southend in the near future. They belong to Southend council.” The team is compiling a report on what it has found and how important it is. This will be looked at by the council and the Government, and a decision will be made in the near future as to the next move, said the representative. Protesting groups are delighted with the turn of events and hope it will quash the road-widening plans.

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