Today I gave myself a birthday treat – I went to view the Staffordshire Hoard – a treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon gold weaponry that was unearthed in a farmer’s field in Staffordshire during last summer. It’s absolutely amazing! The size of the hoard is the largest ever found in the UK, and the intricacy of the workmanship and the artistry on the weaponry is staggering. I queued for 4 1/2 hours which perhaps is a little crazy, but having made the effort to go, I thought it would be daft to waste that time and just come home again, only to repeat the exercise tomorrow. But of course I managed to attend on the same day that the majority of visitors to the exhibition also decided to attend!
It has been incredibly popular in Stoke-on-Trent, and has been on for just 3 weeks at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. It’s not the whole hoard by any means, but the pieces we saw were so inspirational. They are small and exquisite. No wonder the art-historians and social historians are going to have to re-define their thoughts on the Dark Ages. The Sutton Hoo burial find from the late 1930s was a really important discovery in furthering our understanding of Anglo-Saxon times, but this one, the experts reckon, will be even more revealing. No-one knows yet (if they ever will) why these weapons and accoutrements of war were buried in the first place, but there they are. No feminine items have been found, so it points to a plundering of the dead after a battle. However, time and further restoration will perhaps reveal further clues as to why this treasure lay buried unclaimed in a farmer’s field for over 1300 years!!
A glimpse into the past is obviously fascinating, as is the possibilitiy of buried treasure. There’s something in the human psyche that loves these things, and already thousands of people have queued for hours to see these shards of embossed gold, hilt heads, helmet fragments, and war regalia from so long ago. To touch (albeit metaphorically) the world of our ancestors is something wonderful.
The British Museum has given its support to a consortium of Midlands Museums to keep the hoard in the Midlands. To that end, The Art Fund is trying to raise enough money to restore, conserve and exhibit this collection in the Midlands – the area in which it was found. Do follow the link if you would like to know more.