You have an online letter from Dr Welsh (25 February) that deserves a reply.

Letter: 'Skeletons found in Salisbury - are they Anglo-Saxon?'

He has found some newspaper reports contemporaneous with the discovery in 1771-2 of skeletons in the grounds of St Edmund's College, the present council house in Salisbury.

Between 20 and 30 burials were found, grave goods included helmets, a shield boss, spearheads, a sword and brass bucket fittings.

Apparently, one skull was enclosed in a helmet, described as similar to one shown on the broad seal of William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror.

Dr Welsh assumes the seal of William II dates the finds and takes issue with a change from the initial dating of the skeletons as Norman and their present suggested dating as Anglo-Saxon.

This he implies is a recent change of interpretation which he attributes to 'the bogus assertion of intellectual superiority of modern archaeologists' and he goes off on one about a lack of underpinning training, automatic assumptions, commercial archaeologists, old specialists 'put out to grass' and much more; archaeologists it seems cannot see beyond their trowels.

This is apparently a theme in his mentioned book, there is an online review by Historic Liverpool (at Local History on the Ground and The English Semi-detached House • Historic Liverpool (

In the council grounds is an urn erected in 1774 by Henry Penruddocke Wyndham, the then occupier of The College as it was known, he had levelled a portion of the city rampart to create a lawn and so found the inhumations.

On the pedestal of the urn is an inscription recording the discovery near that place of bones and rusty armour, supposed to be evidence of Cynric's victory over the British in AD 552.

It is clear that although the first assumption was of a Norman age within three years the date was reassessed as Saxon.  (The skeletons buried with armour would no longer be necessarily thought to be fallen warriors, watch Time Team or Alice Roberts.)

The urn presumably allows Historic England to give a 10m accurate grid reference, an accuracy that Dr Welsh finds suspicious.

Contemporary newspapers, wills, deeds etc are an invaluable resource but need to be treated carefully.

Dr Welsh has released much venom on poor evidence.

Jamie Wright

Elm Grove Road, Salisbury

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