Athelney and the Jewel

As is well-known, the ‘Isle’ of Athelney was a stronghold of the beleaguered King Alfred during his battles to repel the invading Danes. The slightly elevated land on the Somerset Levels was surrounded in Saxon times by reedy marshes, easy to defend, hard to find, still less attack.

Given the king’s known presence in Athelney, it cannot be a total coincidence that it was no more than 2 or 3 miles away that in 1693 a worker, apparently digging for peat, discovered the gold, rock crystal and enamel artifact known as the Alfred Jewel.


This map of the area, made some years before the discovery of the Jewel, shows how close the forest was to Athelney. The likelihood seems to be that it was at one time in the possession either of the medieval Athelney Abbey or the Saxon church founded on the same place by Alfred himself.

The (considered) likely find spot of the Jewel and the Abbey are marked with red dots. The forested area, Petherton Park is likely to be what remained of the Saxon Royal Forest. What evidence for the site of the discovery?


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