The magnificent Viking sword was made in the Rhinelands of Germany for export to Scandinavia. This type of sword was greatly prized by the Vikings. It was designed as a slashing weapon to be held in one hand and has a double-edged steel blade (steely iron). On one side of the blade is the maker’s name ‘ulfberit’, usually known as ‘Ulfberht’, a famous 10th century maker. The sword is decorated with copper and silver lops and swags inlaid. The handle would have been made of bone or leather and has rotted away in river. The scabbard would have been made of wood and leather and lined with wool or other cloth, and has also rotted away.
Knowing the maker’s name is important as it tells us quite a lot about the sword as other swords have been found with this maker’s name on it. We think that Ulfbert was a smith from the Rhine region as there are many blades over Europe which bear his name. Also the sword was slightly different from other swords in that it is more like steel than iron and therefore stronger. It was certainly better than the Saxon swords – easier to hold. The new blades were much speedier and more mobile and therefore more effective. Earlier iron swords were very prone to breaking or shattering. We know this again from writing – the Norse sagas are full of references to the impatient warrior who has to retreat to the side of the field to ‘draw his sword under his foot’ in order to strengthen it.
By the 9th century there were Viking raids all over southern England and we know of several which took place at Chertsey Abbey. The Vikings are said to have burnt down the abbey at least once – probably in 871 or 884 – as well as much later in 1011, and killed the abbot, prior and 90 monks.