Exciting new Saxon find donated to Tamworth Castle!

New Saxon find arrives at Tamworth Castle gallery

 

  • Saxon gold piece and stamp found locally, donated to castle for all to enjoy
  • Find contributes to the evidence of the importance of Tamworth’s historic links to Mercian kings
  • Confirms that Mercia produced jewelled warrior regalia and treasures like the Staffordshire Hoard

 

Tamworth Castle is excited to welcome a new Saxon piece to its gallery collection, thanks to a recent local find.

Metal detector enthusiast and finder of a Saxon die stamp and gold piece, Bartek Oprzedek, has generously devoted his time to work with Tamworth Borough Council’s Castle Collections and Archives Officer, Sarah Williams, to make sure that the extraordinary finds are available for the public to enjoy.

The Saxon die, also known as a die stamp, was used during the Anglo-Saxon period (7th-early 9th century) by craftsmen to create a pattern or relief imprint onto gold foil used for items such as jewellery and helmets.

Tamworth Borough Council’s castle team has worked in partnership with Bartek and The Thegns of Mercia - an educational living history and reconstructive archaeology group, have provided consultancy for the development of this new exhibition to understand and acquire these pieces for its collection.

Thegns of Mercia coordinator, Aed Thompson explained: "We know that, from poor beginnings, the Mercians were just starting to become militarily powerful in the first half of the 7th century, but it was previously thought unlikely that they were making jewelled warrior regalia like the famous treasures from the Staffordshire Hoard.

“The discovery of a well-used helmet-foil stamp, together with a piece of scrap gold, is evidence of a jewellery workshop in the Tamworth area producing items like gold and silver-covered helmets for the early Mercian kings. It as good as stamps the words 'made in Tamworth' on at least some of the Staffordshire Hoard.

“The pieces, further help to support the theory that the area around Tamworth housed a royal centre, 'capital' of the Kingdom of Mercia as far back as the 7th century. It therefore helps to cement the world-famous Staffordshire Hoard as an important part of the Midlands story - not just because it was looted and buried here, but because similar treasures were made here too."

Working in collaboration with the Thegns, Staffordshire-based Anglo-Saxon jewellery expert Andrew Mason, was able to produce a replica of the stamp in cast bronze. During a recent unveiling at the castle celebrating the new acquisition, this stamp was used to produce a decorative helmet foil (pressblech) with the design for the very first time since the original stamp had been used to make decoration for a kingly helmet over 1300 years ago.

As part of the exhibition, Tamworth Castle aims to add more pieces of the Staffordshire Hoard to the display, alongside items from the castle’s collection. It will explore many exciting aspects of the Staffordshire Hoard including themes of battle, Kingship and the warrior culture in Anglo-Saxon Mercia.

Councillor Rob Pritchard, Deputy Leader of Tamworth Borough Council, said: “This exciting find is an historic breakthrough for Tamworth, affirming the belief that Mercia was an important place in our history and that the most talented artisans were working to produce highly decorative jewellery, helmets, swords and other battle treasures.

“Our staff recognise the huge significance of this discovery for the Tamworth area and understanding of the early history of the kingdom of Mercia and have worked hard to secure the finds for public display.

“We are extremely honoured to have these very impressive pieces as part of our collections bringing our rich Anglo-Saxon history to life and be the perfect showcase for an increased number of items from the Staffordshire Hoard, displaying how this incredible treasure trove fits into the wider history of the Kingdom of Mercia and beyond.”

For more information on the castle please visit the website at: www.tamworthcastle.co.uk.

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