REPORT ON THE STAFFORDSHIRE HOARD TALK
KINETON & DISTRICT LOCAL HISTORY GROUP
On Saturday 13th October at Kineton High School as part of the Group’s 25th birthday celebration the Chairman David Freke introduced our speaker Dr. Kevin Leahy, National Finds Advisor for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Around 125 people sat enthralled by his excellent talk with photos and humour, on the latest research into the Staffordshire Hoard.
He spoke on the subject GOLD GOD and BATTLE, WHAT THE STAFFORDSHIRE HOARD WAS TELLING US.
He started with photos of the detectorist Terry Herbert who found the hoard and Fred Johnson the owner of the farm where it was found, the plough that brought it to the surface, and the site on an exposed hill midway between the M6 toll road and the A5 (Roman Watling Street).
Once the hoard was found it was important to keep the news an absolute secret and to get the site examined and artefacts lifted as soon as possible to avoid any Nighthawkes (detectorists who dig by night without permission) plundering the site. Security guards were employed answering inquisitive onlookers with the reply “Its a health and safety matter”. Various excavations and radar tests were undertaken on the find site and a total of over 1600 items were recovered.
Once the items were safely stored, news conferences were arranged to tell the story to the general public and what an important find it was.
A Coroners inquest was held and it was declared Treasure Trove, later a valuation was made by the British Museum of £3.285 million, which when raised, was split equally between the finder and the landowner.
The next step was to raise this amount to keep it in the country. The general public flocked to view the items put on display in Birmingham and Stoke, some queuing for over five hours. In four weeks, over 90,000 viewed it, and donations of £900,000 was raised by the public.
A website was created to display the 650 images and received over 10 million hits in the first week.
Dr. Leahy stated that the hoard is unique in the fact that it was not a grave burial as was the famous Sutton Hoo burial because the bulk of the items recovered were battle related and no personal items (such as brooches etc.)
The total weight of gold was 5.2 kgs and silver was 1.442 kgs and that many of the items came from swords and helmets, the parts being pulled away from the blades which were either reused or discarded.
Among other items were 3 crosses, one a large one thought to be a processional cross had been deliberately folded up. These were the only items found that were not war gear. One photo showed a battered gold strip with a Latin bible inscription on it, translated it read “Rise up O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face”
He talked about where the gold and garnets were thought to be from, gold from Rome and garnets from India, and how they were cut to fit in the intricate gold pattern work. Photos were shown so we could see the many sections used to make up a sword hilt.
Many pieces were engraved with intricate patterns of birds and intertwined snakes biting each other; all this evidence is leading the experts to date the hoard at around 650 AD. We had suggestions as to who may have placed the hoard where it was found, who the war lords were at the time, the area near Tamworth being the centre of Mercia.
Many questions were answered ably by Dr Leahy after the talk, which were interspersed with humour. A vote of thanks was given by David Beaumont, and the profit from the evening of approximately £175 will be donated to the Arts Foundation who helped with the purchase of The Hoard.
The website for the Staffordshire Hoard is www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk.
There are items on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent.