Unique anglo-saxon gold ring to be centrepiece in new display of treasure at Saffron Walden Museum

The ‘North-Essex ring'.

The ‘North-Essex ring'. - Credit: Archant

A spectacular gold ring around 1,400 years old will now go on display with other archaeological treasure finds at the Saffron Walden Museum – thanks to generous public support for the museum’s recent appeal.

The ‘North-Essex ring’, as it is known, was found in the Uttlesford district in 2011 by resident Tony Carter, and purchased by the Saffron Walden Museum Society thanks to grants from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund, the Headley Museums Archaeological Acquisition Fund, the Beecroft Bequest and the Essex Heritage Trust.

Donations from local residents provided the matching funding needed to secure the grants.

Highly decorated with Anglo-Saxon motifs including birds and interlaced ornament, the ring has been dated to 580-650 AD. The engraving on the bezel shows a belted human figure with a cross below a bird of prey and an intriguing mix of pagan Anglo-Saxon and Christian symbols which has really excited the experts.

Tony Watson, chairman of Saffron Walden Museum Society, said: “It is wonderful that such a remarkable find has been made in Uttlesford district and that the Museum has received such an unprecedented level of support to acquire it.

“Now this ring and other treasure found locally can be enjoyed by everyone. The society is extremely grateful to all the donors and organisations which have supported our appeal so magnificently.”

A further grant under the ‘Treasure Plus’ scheme from the Art Fund, supported by The Headley Trust, has enabled the museum to install a new permanent showcase for the ring and other local finds of archaeological treasure including Roman coin hoards from Lindsell and Ashdon; a medieval hoard of silver coins from Farnham; and a late Tudor – Jacobean gold ring decorated with symbols of Christ’s Passion.

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A range of silver and gold decorated tags and fasteners from Anglo-Saxon, Tudor and Stuart clothing show what care and craftsmanship was used on high-status dress.

Curator at the Saffron Walden Museum, Carolyn Wingfield, said: “The new display not only allows people to enjoy these archaeological treasures, but also shows what a significant impact metal-detector finds, the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act have had on archaeology in recent years.

“Museum displays and knowledge have been greatly enriched by local detectorists and researchers who have reported treasure finds, or loaned or donated other archaeological objects of interest.”

Mr Carter, who found the ring, said “It has been my best find ever in 41 years of metal-detecting, and I’m very pleased that Saffron Walden Museum has been able to acquire it.”

Cllr Howard Rolfe, cabinet member for community services at Uttlesford District Council, said: “I am delighted that not only this treasure was found in our district but with the support from the general public and grant funding, the society has been able to purchase this ring and put it on display in our local museum for all residents to see.

“I do hope that visitors will visit the museum to take a closer look at a piece of our history.”

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: “This attractive and iconographically intriguing object is an important acquisition for the Museum, and one which we are happy to support.

“We are also very pleased that Saffron Walden Museum is a recipient of a Treasure Plus grant, which will provide a permanent showcase for both the signet ring and other local treasures.”

The permanent display can be found in the Museum’s archaeology gallery from Saturday, April 5. Staff will be on hand on Saturday to talk about the finds and visitors will be able to handle a replica of the North-West Essex ring as well as viewing the original.

The museum is open 10am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday and 2pm-5pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Admission is £1.50 for adults, 75p discounts and free for children (18 and under).