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Saxon Loom Weight

by Silas King

By Silas King, from The Weald School, Billingshurst

This Loom weight is similar to a bun in shape, in that it has a rounded top with a flattened bottom, with a hole through its middle like a donut; it is for the most part sandy coloured, apart from one blackened patch on the bottom, where it has also been damaged on one side, with part of it missing. It is made from mostly baked clay; however it contains some grains of chalk with small and medium pieces of flint present as well. Its overall appearance and texture is similar to an unglazed clay jar or pot.

It would have been used mainly by Saxon women, who were the main weavers in their society, for weaving cloth on what's known as warp weighted looms. This was a type of loom which was leant against the wall when being used, with the threads that were being woven together hanging down from the loom, pulled taut by loom weights such as this. The two layers of thread were separated and held in place by a piece of wood going across the loom called a 'heddle'. The threads would have been tied around the hole in the centre of the loom weight, and would have been woven together to make cloth that could be sewn to make items such as clothes.

In Saxon England, women in nearly all households would have done weaving to produce cloths, as most households would have owned sheep, so would have had easy access to the wool needed to make thread.

Due to the fact that the clothes worn by the Saxons were mainly made out of either leather or cloth, weaving would have been an important part of day to day life. However before weaving could begin, the wool would need to be spun into thread using something known as a 'drop Spindle'; the wool would be wrapped around the spindle and then spun quickly, with the drop spindle hanging in the air, twisting the wool into threads.

The weaving and sewing of cloths would have required some skill, with weavers having to ensure that the threads were tightly woven together, as otherwise it would lead to holes in the cloth. Some women would have specialised in this line of work, weaving and sewing extra amounts of cloth (which could then either be sold on as either as cloth to make other commodities such as tapestries, although it was only the wealthy who could afford something such as this), or as readymade clothes, such as tunics, meaning that the production of looms and loom weights, along with the production of cloths would have formed a sort of industry in Saxon England.

This particular loom weight was found on Chapel street, the next street down from the Novium heading towards Chichester cross, part of the Chichester's North West Quadrant. During Saxon times this area had a fairly high number of people living in there, and it was during this period of Chichester's history from which the origins of Chichester's name comes; 'Cissa's Ceaster', meaning 'Cissa's city' (Cissa was a son of Ælle, the first Saxon King of Sussex).

The loom weight itself was one of 44 Saxon loom weights that were excavated from Chapel street in 1977, with the weights that have remained intact varying in weight from 1080 grams to 555 grams. The number of loom weights that were excavated, and the density at which they were excavated, (39 being found in the same area), as well as the fact that numerous other objects that would have also been made by a potter were also found in this vicinity (such as clay pots and bowls) suggests that it could possibly have