Migration & Memory – Finds from the Emerald Isle

Between 1887 and 1888 my Great Granny Ellen emigrated with her parents at the age of 4 or 5 from Liverpool to Dublin. One hundred and twenty years later I retraced her steps emigrating from Dublin to Liverpool. Our stories linked through time and place are echoed in the stories of those objects which travelled with us. While I was able to load a car full of possessions I imagine my Great Granny’s parents would have been much more selective, choosing those objects with meaning which connected them to home and family alongside more practical objects.

This St. Patrick’s day I’m looking at the numerous objects on the PAS database with a similar story of migration. Were the Irish objects discovered in the North West of England carefully chosen? Was this brooch loved by its owner, brought with purpose? Or did it end up here through trade, bought by a local who took a fancy to it?

LANCUM-B494A3 8th or 9th century insular brooch. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
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Many objects connected with Ireland which were discovered in the North West can be associated with trade with the obvious ones being coins. 1,732 coins have been classified on the database as being minted in Ireland such as this penny of Edward IV minted in Dublin.

A silver Edward IV (AD1461-1483) Irish penny minted in Dublin. Copyright National Museums Liverpool: Attribution-ShareAlike License.

The Huxley Hoard on display at the Museum of Liverpool, comprising of 20 flattened bracelets, 1 silver ingot, and 1 decorated, twisted silver bar from a spiral bracelet, and the lead weights with copper alloy inlays found near Chester, are both beautiful but also have a clear connection to trade. The Huxley bracelets, flattened and folded in half, are punch-decorated with a variety of patterns. These punch-decorated bands belong to a well-known Hiberno-Scandinavian type found on both sides of the Irish Sea and produced in Ireland during the second half of the 9th and first half of the 10th centuries. Weights similar to those found near Chester may have been used to weigh pieces of hack-silver taken from armrings such as these for use as ‘small change’.

LVPL-C63F8A The Huxley Hoard of 22 pieces of silver. opyright: National Museums Liverpool
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LVPL1049 Early Medieval lead weight. Copyright: National Museums Liverpool
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Other finds would have been part of larger more practical objects such as this stunning hanging bowl mount from Cumbria. The stylised staring face and the lavish use of enamel are features characteristic of eighth-century Irish decorative metalwork. The decorated mount found in Cheshire East, also would have adorned a larger, possibly functional, object. The Cheshire mount may be compared to mounts from the ‘near Navan’ hoard and from Stoma, Norway. This object is likely to have been brought to England as a result of Viking activity.

LVPL1646 Eighth-century Irish vessel mount. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
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LVPL-D35B84 Early Medieval Irish mount from Cheshire. Copyright National Museums Liverpool: Attribution-ShareAlike License.


But it is the small objects, usually items of jewellery which have a stronger connection to those who travelled with them. The objects we record now, lost in the past, allow us to both understand technology and trade but often convey more meaning with their ability to connect us to those who went before. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

LANCUM-ED5E96 A Viking finger ring comparable with Hiberno-Viking armrings. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
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LVPLD03967 Irish style clay pipe. Copyright National Museums Liverpool: Attribution-ShareAlike License.