Birmingham hoards Anglo-Saxon gold

Image reproduced from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Flickr gallery "The Staffordshire Hoard",

Following the amazing discovery of a vast hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold in a Staffordshire field, members of the public can see a few of the near 1500 items at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) until October 13th. The display has drawn huge crowds, Crowds visit Anglo-Saxon hoard, with queues to see the exhibits stretching outside the museum with the opening delayed while exhibits were moved to a larger space to accommodate the large number of visitors.

Image reproduced from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Flickr gallery "The Staffordshire Hoard",

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has proposed a joint acquisition with Staffordshire County Council and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery to safeguard the finds for the Midlands. The exact sum of money required to acquire the finds will depend on how much it is valued at but Coun Mullaney, the Cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture at Birmingham City Council has already laid out his ambition for them to remain in the Midlands. He said that “It is a Mercian hoard and should be displayed in Mercia. It was found near Birmingham and we are the nearest big city to the old Mercian centres of Tamworth and Lichfield" adding that the BMAG could provide the highest security measures for the collection,

Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Ross Irving said "short of intervention by the government" he believed the hoard would come to the city. "We're hoping we're going to do that in partnership with other authorities."

Indeed the Telegraph notes the tussle that happened following the Sutton Hoo discovery in 1939 but so far the fate of this discovery is as yet undecided.

But amid all the euphoria, it is worth remembering that the Sutton Hoo finds prompted a particularly vicious dust-up between various institutions trying to lay their hands on them. The land belonged to Edith Pretty, who was awarded ownership, and when she died in 1942 she gave them to the British Museum – they remain the largest single bequest in the museum's history.
At the moment it looks as if the British Museum is staying out of the running and the finds will be co-acquired by Birmingham Museum and Stoke-on-Trent Museum – assuming they can raise the purchase price. However, these are early days and it's possible that those sword pommels could see some more action before a final decision is made.

The find was made by Terry Herbert, who found it using a metal detector, on farmland near Lichfield - the exact location is a closely guarded secret; Anglo-Saxon gold hoard is the biggest - and could get bigger, Anglo-Saxon gold: a past that's no longer dead and buried, Largest-Ever Hoard of Anglo-Saxon Treasure Unearthed in U.K. . The find, about 5kg of gold and 2.5kg of silver, was declared treasure, meaning it belongs to the Crown, by the South Staffordshire coroner. The amount of gold and silver is far larger that the 1939 Sutton Hoo discovery when 1.5kg of Anglo-Saxon gold was found near Woodbridge in Suffolk with Leslie Webster, former keeper at the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe, saying: "This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England as radically, if not more so, as the Sutton Hoo discoveries,

Without question this is the largest group of gold artefacts ever found in British soil. Many of the pieces are of the highest quality design and technique, from a time that excelled in the creation of fine jewellery and weaponry.

Image reproduced from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Flickr gallery "The Staffordshire Hoard",

Amongst the gold and silver found are 84 sword pommels, three crosses and the remains of several helmets and a piece of gold bearing a Biblical inscription from the Book of Numbers.

Image reproduced from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Flickr gallery "The Staffordshire Hoard",

Leslie Webster, a former British Museum curator and specialist in Anglo-Saxon culture, saw the treasure last week. "It will make historians, literary scholars, archaeologists and art historians," she says, "think again about rising (and failing) kingdoms, the transition from paganism to Christianity, the conduct of battle and the nature of fine metalwork – to name only a few of the many huge issues it raises."

More information on the finds can be found at with a Flickr gallery of the hoard here: The Staffordshire Hoard


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