Friday, September 25, 2009

Large Crowds come to see the Anglo-Saxon Treasure Hoard

Hundreds of people have been queuing to see part of the UK's biggest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure in Birmingham.

About 1,300 mainly gold and silver items have been recovered after initial discoveries by treasure hunter Terry Herbert in Staffordshire.

Visitors to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery are able to see a selection of the items until 13 October.

So many people turned up on the first day, the opening was delayed while exhibits were moved to a larger space.

Visitor, John Welsh, a jeweller from Rednal, Birmingham, said the treasure was "so intricate".

"I expected it to be a lot cruder because it's so old, but not at all. They almost look as though they could be modern some of the filigree designs," he said.

Meanwhile, curators at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, in conjunction with partners from across the region including Staffordshire County Council, are now starting the process of bidding for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to allow the impressive haul to remain in the city.

Rita McLean, head of Birmingham museums, predicted it could become a major coup for the city on the same lines as the Book of Kells in Trinity College, Dublin.

“I think it will lift the profile of Birmingham,” she said. “It will be a fascinating display and would become a major tourist attraction.”

Birmingham council leader Mike Whitby said: “It’s only right and proper that the artefacts remain in the region they were found.”

It remains to be seen if the Birmingham Museum will need to expand to accomodate this collection, which is expected to generate large crowds and much interest.

Professor Vince Gaffney, director of research and archeology at the University of Birmingham, said the find placed the West Midlands at the heart of historical debate.

“You can’t exaggerate how important this will be, and as we find out more, this haul will simply grow in importance,” he said.

Birmingham’s heritage champion Peter Douglas Osborn said the discovery is evidence that the Midlands is the birthplace of England.

“This is such an impressive haul that it is clear evidence that Mercia would have been the most important kingdom in Anglo-Saxon Britain and the name of England comes from the Angles,” he said.

See also: