Quoit brooch

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The Sarre Brooch in the British Museum
British-made Roman bracelet from the Hoxne hoard with similar animals
Romano-British or Anglo-Saxon belt fittings from the Mucking Anglo-Saxon cemetery, 5th century
Romano-British or Anglo-Saxon belt fittings from Mucking, 5th century

The quoit brooch is a type of brooch found from the 5th century in the very early Anglo-Saxon period, which has given its name to the Quoit Brooch Style to embrace all types of Anglo-Saxon metalwork in the decorative style typical of the brooches. The brooches take their modern name from the rings thrown in the game of quoits, and have the form of a broad ring, or circle with an empty centre, usually in bronze or silver (sometimes inlaid with silver or gold respectively), and often highly decorated. The forms are in a very low relief, so contrasting with other early Anglo-Saxon styles, with detail added by shallow engraving or punching within the main shapes. Dots or dashes are often used to represent fur on the animal forms, as well as lines emphasizing parts of the body. They are fixed with a single, straight hinged pin, like those of other ring or pennanular brooches.[1]

Origins and context[edit]

Most scholars now agree that the style developed mainly from provincial late Roman metalwork styles, apparently drawing elements from both the relatively low-status jewellery found in military graves such as belt buckles and fittings, and also late-Roman luxury work such as the style in one bracelet in the very late Roman Hoxne Hoard.[2] In the Quoit Brooch Style the very varied motifs are largely geometrical but include human face-masks and processions or confronted pairs of schematic animals.[3] In most pieces the motifs are tightly packed together in a way lacking classical harmony, but comparable to later Anglo-Saxon work. The style has also been related to late-Roman ring styles in finds such as the Thetford Hoard.[4]

In late Roman Britain cingula or belts decorated with metal fittings were worn as signs of rank by both soldiers and civilian officials.[5] It is generally thought the style was produced by goldsmiths trained in late Roman provincial traditions working for Germanic clients, certainly after and perhaps also before the departure of the Roman legions and the end of Roman rule in Britain in 410 or thereabouts. The style and forms are very different from contemporary continental Germanic ones, and the contexts of the various finds seem to allow for both the possibilities that Germanic owners were adopting some Romano-British cultural habits, and that Romano-British owners of objects were adopting partially Anglo-Saxon ones in the first years of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain.[6]


The Sarre Brooch, found in the Sarre Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Sarre, Kent, and now in the British Museum is the best-known example, in a very good state of preservation. As in a fragmentary example from the Mucking excavation, two three-dimensional doves sit on the flat circle of the brooch, and another on the head of the pin. In silver with the two zones of animal ornament gilded, it is 7.71 cm across.[7] These two pieces are so similar that they are thought to be from the same workshop, if not the same artist, although several workshops are thought to have worked in the Quoit Brooch Style.[8]

The brooches, and the style, are mainly found in high-status burials in southern-eastern England, south of the Thames, dating from the 5th century.[9] The British Museum also has a fragment of a brooch similar to the Sarre one and several belt-fittings in the style from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Mucking in Essex, as well as pieces excavated at Chessell Down on the Isle of Wight and Howletts in Kent.[10] The brooch shape survived beyond that, but in a much plainer style.[11]

Given its limited range in time and place, the style is rare, and one survey in 2000 identified only 5 round brooches (counting style of decoration rather than shape) and a maximum of 39 objects in the style,[12] though in the same year Peter Inker described and illustrated 7 round brooches.[13] One significant addition to the corpus was found near Winchester in 2013 and registered by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This was a "large fragment of a 5th century copper alloy scabbard mount with silver inlay" with a crouching animal, and part of its confronted partner, projecting above a zone with geometric rosettes to form the upper edge of the scabbard.[14]


The style was identified in the 20th century and initially provoked much debate as to its origins.[15] It is often connected with the Jutes, who Bede said settled in the core area of the finds, and "barbarian" continental influences, Germanic and Frankish are often also seen in the style, which has also been called "Jutish Style A" by Sonia Hawkes.[16]


  1. ^ Webster, 52
  2. ^ Webster, 52-53
  3. ^ Webster, 52
  4. ^ Review by Martin Henig of Ancient Jewelry and Archaeology by Adriana Calinescu; The Jewellery of Roman Britain: Celtic and Classical Traditions by Catherine Johns, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 101, No. 4 (Oct., 1997), p. 809 (re the Johns book), Published by: Archaeological Institute of America, Article DOI: 10.2307/506863, JSTOR
  5. ^ Hawkes, Sonia, "Some Recent Finds of Late Roman Buckles", p. 390, Britannia, Vol. 5, (1974), pp. 386–393, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, Article DOI: 10.2307/525745, JSTOR
  6. ^ Webster, 54–55; Inker, 49–51
  7. ^ Webster, 53; Sarre Brooch, British Museum collection database
  8. ^ Inker, 36
  9. ^ Webster, 52
  10. ^ British Museum collection database; Smith
  11. ^ Webster, 52–53
  12. ^ Owen-Crocker, 1401–1402
  13. ^ Inker, 35–39
  14. ^ "SCABBARD", Unique ID: SUR-029B13, "A large fragment of a 5th century copper alloy scabbard mount with silver inlay, decorated in the Quoit Brooch Style. The inner face of the mount suggests a high tin content". Portable Antiquities Scheme
  15. ^ Inker, 46-51; Myres, J. N. L., review of The Fifth-Century Invasions South of the Thames by Vera I. Evison, pp. 341-342, The English Historical Review, Vol. 81, No. 319 (Apr., 1966), pp. 340–345, Oxford University Press, JSTOR
  16. ^ Owen-Crocker, 1402; Smith


  • Inker, Peter, "Technology as Active Material Culture: The Quoit-brooch style", Medieval Archaeology Vol. 44, 2000, pp. 25–52 PDF, with good drawings of most objects in the style
  • Owen-Crocker, Gale R., review of The Quoit Brooch Style and Anglo-Saxon Settlement: A Casting and Recasting of Cultural Identity Symbols by Seiichi Suzuki, Speculum, Vol. 77, No. 4 (Oct., 2002), pp. 1401–1403, Medieval Academy of America, Article DOI: 10.2307/3301310, JSTOR
  • Smith, Reginald A., "Jutish Finds in Kent", The British Museum Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Mar., 1936), pp. 131–132, DOI: 10.2307/4421850. JSTOR
  • Webster, Leslie, Anglo-Saxon Art, 2012, British Museum Press, ISBN 9780714128092