There are competing theories about the origins of the Anglo-Saxon futhorc. One theory proposes that it was developed in Frisia and from there spread later to England. Another holds that runes were first introduced to England from Scandinavia where the futhorc was modified and then exported to Frisia. Both theories have their inherent weaknesses, and a definitive answer may come from further archaeological evidence.
The early futhorc was identical to the Elder Futhark, except for the split of ᚨa into three variants ᚪāc, ᚫæsc and ᚩōs, resulting in 26 runes. This was necessary to account for the new phoneme produced by the Ingvaeonic split of allophones of long and short a. The earliest ᚩōs rune is found on the 5th-century Undley bracteate. ᚪāc was introduced later, in the 6th century. The double-barred ᚻhægl characteristic of continental inscriptions is first attested as late as 698, on St Cuthbert's coffin; before that, the single-barred Scandinavian variant was used.
In England the futhorc expanded. Runic writing in England became closely associated with the Latin scriptoria from the time of Anglo-Saxon Christianization in the 7th century. The futhorc started to be replaced by the Latin alphabet from around the 7th century, but it was still sometimes used up until the 10th or 11th century. In some cases, texts would be written in the Latin alphabet, and þorn and ƿynn came to be used as extensions of the Latin alphabet. By the Norman Conquest of 1066, it was very rare and disappeared altogether shortly thereafter. From at least five centuries of use, fewer than 200 artefacts bearing futhorc inscriptions have survived.
Several famous English examples mix runes and Roman script, or Old English and Latin, on the same object, including the Franks Casket and St Cuthbert's coffin; in the latter, three of the names of the Four Evangelists are given in Latin written in runes, but "LUKAS" (Saint Luke) is in Roman script. The coffin is also an example of an object created at the heart of the Anglo-Saxon church that uses runes. A leading expert, Raymond Ian Page, rejects the assumption often made in non-scholarly literature that runes were especially associated in post-conversion Anglo-Saxon England with Anglo-Saxon paganism or magic.