Witham Shield

The Witham Shield is an Iron Age decorative bronze shield facing of La Tène style, dating from about the IV century BC. The shield was discovered in the River Witham in the vicinity of Washingborough and Fiskerton in Lincolnshire, England in 1826. The artefact is presently in the British Museum.

The beaten bronze shield was made principally from wood, now perished, to a design later known as a “Gaulish Shield” that originated in the VII century BC. What remains is an almost complete facing that had been made to cover its surface.

Detail of the central boss of the Witham Shield.

Originally a leather silhouette of a long-legged wild boar would have been riveted to the shield around the central dome, as indicated by small rivet holes and staining of the shield. The pattern of discolouration was very clear when the shield was recovered from the River Witham (see 1863 drawing below). Although it is still possible to see the discolouration under certain lighting conditions, the boar design is no longer easy to make out.

Drawing of the Witham Shield made in 1863 by Orlando Jewitt in John Kemble’s book, Horae Ferales, clearly showing the long-legged boar.

Images of several birds and animals are incorporated into the design of the Witham Shield. The roundels at each end are inspired by the heads of birds, which are supported by horses with wings for ears. Birds similar to crested grebes are engraved on the central spine and this completes the engraving work elsewhere.

The British Museum consider this shield to be “one of the best examples of the way British craftspeople adopted the new style of La Tène art.”

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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