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Talks start on future of county's gold hoard

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: October 01, 2009

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THE STAFFORDSHIRE Hoard’s future could lie within the county just like its 1300 year past as the county council considers a permanent home for the amazing discovery.

Storing and displaying the country’s largest ever find of Anglo-Saxon gold treasure in Staffordshire is a viable possibility, Staffordshire County Council Leader Philip Atkins has said.

He has vowed to ensure the county’s heritage can be viewed in the county. Local MPs have said the hoard should be displayed in Staffordshire.

The discovery of more than 1,500 artefacts in a field at Brownhills, announced last week, hit the worldwide headlines. It was found on farmland belonging to Fred Johnson by metal detectorist Terry Herbert in July.

The hoard is believed to date from the 7th or 8th centuries and includes early Christian inscriptions and crosses, sword fittings, helmets and jewellery.

The next steps in the Staffordshire Hoard’s history and its future were due to be discussed at a county council meeting this morning.

Councillor Atkins said: “Nothing is impossible and Staffordshire County Council will play a full role in this process in the best interests of the people of Staffordshire.

“This is a world class find, and possibly the most significant treasure discovery in the British Isles since the Sutton Hoo excavations of 1939. It is our heritage and we need to do it justice.” “But this will be a lengthy and complex process. It is also important to note that this will be a partnership effort. Our neighbouring authorities in Stoke-on- Trent and Birmingham have also expressed an interest in the acquisition. Other significant players in the process will include The British Museum and English Heritage.

“When the South Staffordshire Coroner, Andrew Haigh, formally declared the Hoard to be treasure it cleared the way for the Hoard to be acquired by a museum. But it has got to be cleaned, catalogued and valued and it will be a good two years down the line before we get to a stage where the British Museum will be saying ‘who can do something with it?’” Thousands of people have flocked to the Birmingham Museum in the past week to see some of the key artefacts, which will remain on display until October 13, before being taken to the British Museum for valuation.

They are believed to be worth a seven-figure sum, Councillor Atkins said.

Birmingham Museum is the nearest accredited museum to the discovery site and one of only two accredited museums in the area the other being the Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent.

“People in Staffordshire are rightly proud of the Hoard and have said they want to see it in Staffordshire,” Councillor Atkins said.

“It needs to be put on display in the county for people to see because there is so much to learn from it. It is just unbelievable the filigree work is just phenomenal and there is also a double Stafford Knot.” The haul contains 5kg of gold and 1.3kg of silver, compared to 1.6kg of precious metals found at Sutton Hoo. It was found in the heartland of the Anglo- Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

Michael Fabricant, MP for nearby Lichfield, has called for the Staffordshire Hoard to be put on show in Lichfield or Hammerwich. “I resist talk of putting it on show in Shugborough simply because the ounty owns that site,” he said.

“I also hope that some - if not all - of these relics of Saxon life in Mercia will find a permanent home in Lichfield District.” But Stone MP Bill Cash said the historical Shugborough estate would be a suitable place to display the Anglo-Saxon treasure.

“I believe it is absolutely vital that it is in Staffordshire,” he said. “The county is part of the centre of gravity of the Mercian Kingdom and would be the best location.

“It should be kept in the immediate vicinity and I think it is important for it to be at Shugborough because it is central to Staffordshire and near Stafford the county town. It is a place it could be displayed and cared for, and people would be able to visit it.”

Stafford MP David Kidney said: “It should definitely be in the county but I am not sure where - there are lots of places. The important thing is that the elected Parliamentarians and councillors of Staffordshire get together and talk about where would be the best venue.”

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