The Mystery of the Bronze Age Sword

Can you help Folkestone Museum solve an archaeological mystery?  In 1951 a Bronze Age sword was dredged from the sea, about 36.5 metres (40 yards) from the shoreline off the site of the Roman villa at East Wear Bay.  The finder, a local fisherman by the name of Mr H. Brice, was advised that the find may be of archaeological importance by a Mr G. F. Finn of Fairlight Road, Hythe.  The sword was examined by an archaeologist, J.D. Cowen, under the auspices of the then Borough Librarian, Mr R. Howarth.  Mr Brice, the finder, retained possession of the sword.

Dated to around 1,000-750 BC, the complete bronze sword (above) measured just over 25 inches (65 centimetres) long.  In style it closely resembled sword forms common in Dorset and, according to Cowen (1952, 90), it was the sole example of its type found in Kent at the time.  The sword had a relatively plain hilt with thickened moulding below the outer rivet hole on each side (ibid., 92).  A sword of similar type is currently in the collection of the British Museum and can be seen here. It’s not known how the sword ended up in the sea.  It may have been from Bronze Age burial on the cliff edge that had eroded away due to the unstable chalk.  Alternatively, the sword may have been deposited in the sea as part of a Bronze Age ritual; the deposition of metalwork in seas, rivers and streams forming a part of prehistoric religious practice in Britain.

After the death of Mr Brice, the finder, Folkestone Museum (then at Grace Hill) tried to locate the sword but the trail ran cold and any further investigation into its whereabouts or subsequent history was shelved, although it was later thought it may have ended up in the Dymchurch area.  Recently, whilst going through documentation, a chance reference has sparked our curiosity and we’d love to know what happened to the sword to solve the mystery!  Can you help?  Did you know, or are you a descendant, of Mr Brice?  Do you remember the sword being found? If you’ve any information please contact Dr Alison Moore, Outreach & Audience Development Officer at Folkestone Museum ( or call 01303 257946.


Cowen, J.D. 1952. A Bronze Sword from Folkestone. Archaeologia Cantiana (65), pp90-92.

‘Talk of the Town’, Folkestone Herald, 14 April 1951