Son of the soil

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Basil Brown
Archaeologist and finder of the Saxon boat
Sutton Hoo

Early Life

Basil John Wait Brown was born in 1888 in Bucklesham, Suffolk. When he was just a few months old the family moved to Rickinghall where Basil remained for the rest of his life.

A life as a farmer was on the cards, just as his father had been, however his love of learning and coin collecting meant he was destined for something quite different.


Basil married May in 1923 and theirs was a marriage that was supportive, kind and full of mutual affection. This is clear from the numerous letters they exchanged during the excavations at Sutton Hoo in 1939.

May was so very proud of what Basil had achieved and wrote of her disappointment when Basil's name wasn't mentioned in the press.


Basil and May struggled to scrape a living but they managed one way or another. Money would come in dribs and drabs from various digs and May supplemented their income by cleaning, reporting for the local newspaper and childcare.

In recognition of his work at Sutton Hoo, Basil was awarded a Civil List pension of £250 a year. A small but generous gesture for this remarkable man.