04/03/2013 / Leave a comment / Permalink

The Shrewsbury Roman Hoard returns to Shropshire

Related topics: Leisure / My area

The largest coin hoard ever discovered in Shropshire has now returned to the county, thanks to grant aid given by the Headley Trust, the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, and The Association for Roman Archaeology. 

Generous donations were also made locally by the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, and the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. 

The 9,236 coins were placed in cloth bags and buried in a very large storage jar some 1,700 years ago. 

Emma-Kate Lanyon, Head of Collections for Shropshire Museums, said:

“The coins within the hoard represent some of the most commonly found coins from Roman Britain.  The importance of this find is the sheer number and value they represent. It is likely that the hoard belonged to a wealthy person or community, and was buried for safekeeping but, for some reason, the coins were never recovered.”

The hoard will now be photographed and catalogued to allow people to study the hoard online, before being prepared for display at the new Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Phil Scoggins, Interpretation Officer for the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery Project, said:

“The scale of this hoard makes it visually very exciting.  This important find will form the centrepiece of our display, which explains why Roman coin hoards were buried and what they can tell us about Roman culture.  The fact that the coins were still in their pot when it was excavated, not to mention the rare survival of fragments of the cloth money bags, has given us a fascinating snapshot of Roman life.  It is also remarkable that, whilst carefully excavating the hoard, archaeologists have been able to establish that whoever buried these coins kept their location secret for a number of years, adding more coins over time.”

The Roman Gallery planned for the new Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery will showcase some of the county’s nationally important Roman finds, and is due to open later this year.  This fascinating collection has been reappraised by a number of well-known archaeologists and specialists, to give new insights into how the arrival of the Roman Army shaped Shropshire and what happen after Roman rule ended.

Emma-Kate Lanyon said:

“Our Prehistoric and Roman collections are some of the finest in the region.  New evidence, like this hoard, is emerging all the time, so theories change and opinions vary as to how this evidence should be interpreted.  By involving leading archaeologists such as Roger White of Birmingham University and Neil Faulkner of Current Archaeology magazine, we’ve not only worked to make sure our interpretation of the objects on display is up to date, but have also taken the opportunity to explore with our visitors how our views of the past are shaped and developed.”

Mike Owen, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for tourism and culture, said:

“The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme is now over 15 years old, and has vastly increased our understanding of Shropshire’s past by bringing finds made by the public to the attention of archaeologists.  It has also provided our museums with the opportunity to develop their collections by acquiring important and unique artefacts for future research and display.  We are very grateful to all our funders for their support, which helps ensure that everyone can appreciate and learn from remarkable finds such as this for generations to come.”

Further information

The V&A/ ACE Purchase Grant fund is a Government fund that helps regional museums, record offices and specialist libraries in England and Wales to acquire objects relating to the arts, literature and history.  It was established at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in 1881 and continues to be part of its nationwide work.  The annual grant budget, currently £750,000, is provided by Arts Council England (ACE).  Each year it considers some 200 applications and awards grants to around 100 organisations enabling acquisitions of around £3 million to go ahead.  Visit the website www.vam.ac.uk/purchasegrantfund

The Headley Museums Archaeological Acquisition Fund has been established by the Headley Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts.  Its trustees realise the great difficulties many regional and local museums find in raising the money to buy archaeological artefacts.  They are also aware of the proliferation of finds as a consequence of the success of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.  The Headley initiative is intended to help museums secure and display notable finds.  This scheme runs alongside, and in close collaboration with, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.  Applicant museums need to meet the eligibility criteria laid out in the Information for Applicants document available from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

The Association for Roman Archaeology founded formally in 1995 and now has some 3000 members in the UK and worldwide.  It uses its membership income to promote the advancement of the education of the public in the history and archaeology of the Roman period.  One of the main aims of the Association is to support archaeological or associated research, particularly into Roman Britain.  Grants vary between £350 and £1000, depending upon circumstances.  All are funded from the Graham Webster Research Fund, established in memory of our late President.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) funded project to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales.  Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work.  Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past.  All finders of gold and silver objects, and groups of coins from the same finds, over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996. Prehistoric base-metal assemblages found after 1 January 2003 also qualify as Treasure.  Under the Treasure Act, Accredited Museums have the opportunity to acquire by purchase items declared as Treasure.  A fair market price for these items is agreed by a committee of independent valuers.

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