The Saxon Centre
On the present Sainsbury’s site was a large, important pagan Anglo-Saxon Cemetery dating back to the 5/7th century. The invading Anglo-Saxons would have come to Kempston in the 5th century via the River Ouse. James Wyatt and The Rev. Samuel Edward Fitch recorded the finds excavated by the archeologists in 1863/1864, which included brooches, belt fittings and burial urns.
An Anglo-Saxon woman’s grave yielded a small piece of embroidery, being the earliest recorded example of Old English wool embroidery. This was worked in stem-stitch and the colours used were blue, green, yellow and white with red outline stitches. The embroidery was found in a relic box, which would have hung from the woman’s girdle. Anglo-Saxon embroidery was famous throughout Europe and the known world during the 8th-to the 14th centuries and was known as Opus Anglicanum (English Work).
The most important find from the woman’s grave was, what is now known as, the Kempston Beaker. Fitch says it was found entirely whole and as perfect as when it was first laid in the grave some 1400 years ago. The glass beaker is conical in shape and 10 ½ inches high and, as she was obviously a woman of high status, would probably have once contained mead rather than ale. It can be seen in the British Museum.
Peter C Horn