Rugby Beekeepers Association were approached in 2018 by Pieta Greaves of Drakon Heritage and Conservation. They were looking for local beeswax that could be used in a project focusing on reconstructions of a high-status helmet contained within the Staffordshire Hoard. The project aimed to showcase how the original may have looked and to provide valuable research on the methods used in its construction and evidence of beeswax was found in the original objects during research in both the crest and on the lower design panel.

The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever discovered and it was found in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield in Staffordshire, in 2009.

The two helmet reconstructions have now been completed and they are on permanent display at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which care for the collection on behalf of the joint owners Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council.

The very high status helmet, which constitutes approximately a third of the 4000+ pieces of the 7th century hoard was heavily damaged before it was buried but it was clear that the detail and bold crested design meant that the Staffordshire Hoard Helmet was likely to have had an important owner. Helmets of this period are incredibly rare - there are only five other Anglo-Saxon helmets known such as the Sutton Hoo helmet that is in the British Musuem.

Some major elements of the original helmet are missing though, including the steel base which provided the shape, and the surviving parts are too damaged and incomplete to reassemble the original physically. Instead, the project explored how the helmet may have been made and what it looked like, enabling archaeologists to understand its construction better and test theories about its structure and assembly.

The reconstructions have taken 18 months and were created by a team of specialist makers. The School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University led on the fabrication of the precious metal elements of the helmet. Laser scanning of the original objects was used to ensure the replica pieces are as close to the surviving original parts as possible. Other specialists, including Royal Oak Armoury, Gallybagger Leather, Drakon Heritage and Conservation and metalsmith Samantha Chilton, worked collaboratively to bring the helmet to life, advised by the archaeologists.

Staffordshire Hoard Helmet reconstruction Hair with beeswax and linen attached. © Image Copyright Drakon Heritage and Conservation
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Steel, leather and horsehair elements were created, as well as the wood and paste, that scientific analysis of the original has revealed were used in its construction.

Rugby Beekeepers Association supplied beeswax in varying grades to Drakon Heritage and Conservation (a member of the reconstruction team) to aid in the experimentation in making the paste that was used to adhere the horsehair crest and the rendering process was documented and photographed for the benefit of the project's records.

Staffordshire Hoard Helmet reconstruction Decayed beeswax. © Image Copyright Drakon Heritage and Conservation
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Before it was used, the beeswax on the original helmet was also mixed with calcium carbonate and hoof glue to make a paste. It is thought that this contributed to the long-term properties of the paste and helped improve its flexibility and to stop the movement of pieces if the beeswax shrank or expanded as a result of environmental changes.

If you get the chance, we urge you to embark on a rewarding visit of the displays of the helmets and original hoard items. You will find them at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.


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  • Starvation Alert
    10 August 2020
    Bee Inspectors across the UK are reporting that many colonies are in need of food where honey has been harvested and nectar availability is reduced. Where starvation is a risk, replacement food needs to be provided.

    Please monitor your colonies throughout the coming months and feed as required to ensure your bees do not starve. A standard full size British National colony needs between 20-25 kg of stores to successfully overwinter. Sugar syrup should be made with 1kg of sugar to 650ml of warm water or a commercially ready-made bee syrup can be given.

    For further information, please see the Best Practice Guidance No. 7 - Feeding Bees Sugar
  • This week (13-19 July) is Bees’ Needs Week
    10 July 2020
    Bees’ Needs Week is a campaign co-ordinated by Defra to raise awareness of the importance of bees and other pollinators, and to provide practical advice on what we can all do to support them. Many organisations are working together to encourage everyone who can, to do simple things at home - like growing more flowers and cutting grass less often - to help our precious pollinators thrive, and to engage further with nature through citizen science initiatives.
    There’s more information on the Bees’ Needs Website. Throughout the week a variety of content will be shared online including:
    • Why bees are important animation
    • Day in the life of a beekeeper video
    • Educational resources including bumble bee identification
    • Information on the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme
    Get involved with Bees’ Needs Week on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using #BeesNeeds
  • New Presentations Online
    11 June 2020
    The National Bee Unit is pleased to share a range of presentations created by Fera Science Ltd. presented by Kirsty Stainton on;
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    Asian Hornet Genetics
    European foulbrood

    The presentations can be found on BeeBases pages on Asian hornet and Foulbrood.
    Please do contact us with your feedback.