Staffordshire Hoard gold may have been a king's ransom

A leading historian believes the fabulous Staffordshire Hoard may have been a ransom paid to the legendary Mercian pagan king Penda.

A leading historian believes the fabulous Staffordshire Hoard may have been a ransom paid to the legendary Mercian pagan king Penda.

Michael Wood, an expert in the Anglo-Saxon era, said his best guess was that the treasure found in a field near Brownhills, had formed part of a payment "beyond belief" made to Penda by the Northumbrian king Oswald.

An army led by Penda had besieged Oswald's forces at Stirling in 654 and the ransom was paid to end that siege.

The 62-year-old historian and television presenter said the latest research had revealed none of the treasure was later than 650 and many of the pieces, mainly from weapons including sword hilts, were of Northumbrian design.

He added:"The hoard looks like exactly that kind of royal ransom.

"The question is how did it end up in that field?"

He believes that may have happened in 655 and that the field was part of an estate that belonged to the Mercian royal family.

In that year a Welsh army attacked the Mercians at the old Roman site at Wall, not far from the field.

He believes The Mercians buried the remaining treasure from the ransom before the battles and those that buried it may have lost their lives in the fighting.

Penda had also been killed in an ambush before the battle. The hoard was discovered near Hammerwich last July by 55-year-old metal detecting enthusiast Terry Herbert from Burntwood. He and landowner Fred Johnson shared the £3.3m value of the treasure.

More of the 1,500 items have just gone on public display in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

These include tiny cut garnets, designed and shaped with perfection to fit inside gold honeycomb, a snake, measuring 4cm with engraved eyes and a forked tongue and tiny gold and garnet mosaic gems.