The owners of the largest and most valuable collection of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found have vowed to spearhead a fundraising campaign to save newly discovered artefacts.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council jointly own the 3,900-piece Staffordshire Hoard, after a massive public fundraising effort and grants from public bodies raised £3.3m in 2009.
A coroner’s court inquest today (Friday) ruled that a further 81 items discovered in November 2012 on the same farmer’s field in south Staffordshire are also part of the collection. The artefacts include a helmet cheek piece very similar in design and size to an item from the original discovery and pectoral crosses that also match crosses from the 2009 collection.
Coroner Andrew Haigh, sitting at South Staffordshire Coroner’s Court in Stafford, heard evidence for around an hour, including from Anglo-Saxon metalwork expert Dr Kevin Leahy, who had previously painstakingly catalogued all the artefacts from the original discovery.
The coroner’s ruling means that the new artefacts are officially classed as treasure, and will now be valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee at the British Museum. It is anticipated that the valuation hearing will take place at the end of March. The hearing will determine how much money the land owner and metal detectorist who originally discovered the Staffordshire Hoard can expect to receive for the newly found items.
It also means that the two councils will have to raise more money to buy the artefacts to ensure they are kept with the original Hoard, saving the treasures for the West Midlands region.
Councillor Mark Meredith, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for economic development and culture, said:
“We welcome the coroner’s verdict that the newly discovered artefacts are classed as treasure and are a part of the existing Staffordshire Hoard.
“The newly found artefacts contain that same incredible level of detail in design and decoration that make the Staffordshire Hoard such an unparalleled collection.
“The Staffordshire Hoard has provided a boost to our visitor economy, attracted huge visitor numbers to our museum and has helped strengthen our city centre offer.”
“It is not known how much the new items will be valued at, and it would be wrong to speculate on this or pre-judge the Treasure Valuation Committee hearing.
“But we, together with our partners at Birmingham, are committed to doing everything we can to save these new finds so that they can be kept together with the original artefacts and can stay in the West Midlands region, where they belong.”
The two councils will also continue to work in partnership with Lichfield District Council, Staffordshire County Council and Tamworth Borough Council, to ensure the story of the Staffordshire Hoard is told across the Mercian region.
Simon Cane, interim director of Birmingham Museums Trust, which is leading conservation work on the treasure, said:
“Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent museums are very excited about the discovery of more material relating to the Staffordshire Hoard.
“These newly discovered items clearly relate to the original find and will fill in some missing pieces of the puzzle that is the Staffordshire Hoard. We now await the formal process of valuation and will work together and with other partners to prepare to acquire these items so that they can be reunited with the Hoard and add to our understanding of the most spectacular archaeological find of the 21st century.”
The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent is currently displaying the largest exhibition of the Staffordshire Hoard to date. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery also has a permanent exhibition of the treasure.
The original campaign to raise the £3.3m to acquire the Staffordshire Hoard was led by Arts Council England and included a substantial grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.