Museum Musings – June 2021

This week has been Musuems Week with a social media hashtag each day. At West Berkshire Museum there is a large display of objects relating to the English Civil War as in Newbury there were two large Civil War battles. The First Battle of Newbury (September 20th 1643) and the Second Battle of Newbury (October 27th 1644). The first battle is a registered battlefield in the area around Shaw House, but the second battle took in large swathes of the area stretching from Thatcham to Donnington.

Civil War display in West Berkshire Museum
Our Civil War Soldier #CaptionThisMW

There are many finds on the PAS that could be associated with the battles. There is this complete copper alloy signet ring of post-medieval date. The finger ring has a sub-circular bezel with a crude engraving.

BERK-CD96DE Rights Holder: Oxfordshire County Council
CC License

The imagery on the shield is interesting, as is the findspot and its association with the English Civil War; the border between Great Shefford and Leckhampstead may have been the location of a skirmish in c. AD 1644, and local legend says that Charles I stayed in Shefford before the Battle of Newbury in the same year. The design on the signet ring, in the form of the shield and the design, is reminiscent of Commonwealth pennies issued between AD 1649-1660. The Arms of the Commonwealth (cojoined shields with the arms of St George and the Irish harp) was in use between May 1649 and 1655, after which a new Arms of the Commonwealth encorporating the Scottish saltire was issued. This type of finger ring would be correct for the 17th century, so it may have belonged to someone of Parliamentarian or Commonwealth loyalty during this period.

BERK-6A0C1A Rights Holder: Berkshire Archaeology
CC License

One clear indicator of the second battle is musket balls. Many of these are found in tight clusters suggesting military engagements. One particular site has yielded a total of over 80 shot of various calibre. Measurement – Diameter of the top right = 12.8mm, Average weight of collection = 10.62gm. Total weight = 233.1gm.

West Berkshire Museum is open Wednesday to Saturday 10am – 4pm