Chertsey (Celtic) Shield

Chertsey shield - front view

Chertsey shield – front view

The Celtic or Chertsey Shield, as it is more commonly known, was discovered in December 1985 by Mr. D. Blake who was working at the gravel pit at Abbey Meads, Chertsey. The shield was taken to the British Museum, where it is still housed; the one on display in the Runnymede Room is a replica.

The shield is unusual in that it is made of bronze, normally they are wooden, although the shape is typical of Celtic shields from the 5th century BC onwards. It is the only bronze Celtic shield to have ever been found. When the shield was discovered samples were taken from the wooden core of the handle to have radiocarbon dated. The samples taken date to 400-200 BC.

The oval shield has a raised spine down the long axis, with a spindle-shaped boss in the centre covering a central hole bridged by a horizontal handle which would have protected the warrior’s hand. Most Celtic shield have metal to bind the edges of the wood to make it stronger, and some have a broad metal strap across the front which secures the boss to the front of the shield.

Chertsey shield - back view

Chertsey shield – back view

A shield of this shape was discovered in the River Witham in Lincolnshire in c.1826 (also in the British Museum), but the Lincolnshire shield is made of wood entirely faced with bronze, whereas the Chertsey shield is made solely of bronze.

It seems likely that the shield was deposited in an old river which meandered through the gravel pits in which it was discovered. This is quite common with Celtic weaponry as they practiced a cult in which water had great significance, and so ritually deposited possessions in lake, rivers and bogs.