News from the Scheme

Anglo-Saxon Rendlesham Conference

Published: 4 years ago Author:

Anglo-Saxon Rendlesham
A Royal Centre of the East Anglian Kingdom
One-day conference to present the results of archaeological investigation 2008-2014

At the Apex, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Saturday 24th September 2016, 10am-5pm
Find out more at:

Rare Viking hoard from the time of the 'last kingdom' found in Oxfordshire

Published: 4 years ago Author:

Watlington Hoard, a selection

At the launch of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure annual reports in the British Museum's Citi Money Gallery, Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, announced the discovery of a significant Viking Hoard. Uncovered near Watlington, Oxfordshire, the hoard dates from the time of the 'last kingdom', when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex were fighting for their survival from the threat of a 'Great Heathen Army', a fight which was to lead to the unification of England.

The find includes rare coins of King Alfred 'the Great' of Wessex (r.871-99) and King Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-79), as well as Viking arm-rings and silver ingots, and is said by archaeologists to be nationally significant. The hoard was found at Watlington by James Mather, a metal-detectorist, and excavated by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The find was block-lifted and brought to the British Museum where the soil-block was excavated in the lab, and the finds studied by experts from the Ashmolean and British Museums. The hoard consists of 186 coins (some fragmentary), 7 items of jewellery and 15 ingots.

A selection of photos can be viewed on the Portable Antiquities Scheme Flickr site, here:

The hoard was buried around the end of the 870s, in the period following Alfred's decisive defeat of the Vikings at Edington in 878. Following their defeat, the Vikings moved north of the Thames and travelled to East Anglia through the kingdom of Mercia. It seems likely that the hoard was buried in the course of these events, although the precise circumstances will never be known.

James Mather, the finder of the hoard, said

"Discovering this exceptional hoard has been a really great experience and helping excavate it with archaeologists from the PAS on my 60thbirthday was the icing on the cake!It highlights how responsible metal detecting, supportive landowners and the PAS contribute to national archaeological heritage. I hope these amazing artefactscan be displayed by a local museum to be enjoyed by generations to come."

Gareth Williams, Curator of Early Medieval Coinage,
The hoard comes from a key moment in English history. At around the same time, Alfred of Wessex decisively defeated the Vikings, and Ceolwulf II, the last king of Mercia quietly disappeared from the historical record in uncertain circumstances. Alfred and his successors then forged a new kingdom of England by taking control of Mercia, before conquering the regions controlled by the Vikings. This hoard has the potential to provide important new information on relations between Mercia and Wessex at the beginning of that process."

Under the Treasure Act 1996 there is a legal obligation for finders to report such finds. Since 1997, when the Act became law the number of finds reported has increased fivefold from 201 cases in 1998 (the first full year of the Act) to 990 in 2013, and 1008 in 2014. If declared Treasure such finds may be acquired by museums, with preference going to the local museum. Of the finds reported Treasure in 2013 (the last year for which figures are available), 363 were acquired by 91 local museums, so they can be displayed close to where the items were discovered.

If declared Treasure, the Ashmolean Museum and Oxfordshire Museums Service will be working in partnership with others, and potential funders, to try to ensure that this important find can be displayed for local people to learn about and enjoy.

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Regionally important Anglo-Saxon silver hooks with entwined beasts go on display at Whitchurch Museum.

Published: 4 years ago Author:

Hooked Tags Prees

Whitchurch Museum haveacquired a pair of silver engraved hooks dating from the late 9th or 10th centuryAD. This acquisition has been supported by the Art Fund and many local contributors including Whitchurch Town Council, Prees Parish Council, Shropshire Archaeological Society, Whitchurch Historical and Archaeological Group. The hooks were discovered in the Prees area, North Shropshire, by two individual metal detectorists some two years apart. The two finds were reported to the Coroner as potential treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act. Today is the first time they have been on display since their loss some 1100 years ago

The hooks are very similar to one another and form a matching pair. Each hook is of a similar shape with two sewing holes positioned on one edge. They are both decorated with similar entwined beasts which oppose one another. The exact beast is unknown - some think they could be hound / hunting dogs, whilst others prefer that they are deer. The bodies of each animal is enclosed within interlace in the 'Trewhiddle' form - this style of decoration helps date the design. The craftsmen who made the tags would have hand carved / chased the intricate design from the flat panel and then filled the grooves with niello. Niello is made of silver, lead and copper and when applied would have been a blue black colour. A thousand years in the Shropshire soil has removed most of this surface, but originally the design would have been one of contrasts between bright silver hound and a dull black coloured background.

The function of the hooks is also unclear; similar examples have been found with burials often being positioned around the knees / legs. This has led some specialists to believe that they were used on clothing - possibly as garter hooks to stop socks / trousers slipping. However, other evidence from coin hoards suggests that these hooks were used on satchel, purses, or leather bags to close them; this would explain why they are found in graves near the legs. The coin hoards also help to date their use - with the best example being found in a hoard of English coins discovered in the Forum in Rome which was dated to AD 945. Very few pairs of tags are known and of those recovered to date these are the most decoratively elaborate and well preserved.

Although we can marvel at the opulence and decorative skill of the people who made these very fine objects - we are at a loss to say something about their original owner. We do know that they were of high status and that to find the two hooks within the same area suggests that they were lost together. Material from the early medieval period is very rare in Western Britain and Shropshire has very few finds of this date. We do know that Whitchurch was an important Roman town (Mediolanum), being positioned between the important cities of Uriconium (Wroxeter) and Castrum (Chester). Although we have very few finds of Saxon date there is nothing to suggest that its regional importance at the heart of the Roman road network, doesn't continue into the Saxon and Medieval periods.

Our current lack of understanding of the period makes the discovery and reporting of these finds especially precious; the two detectorists who found the hooks have shed light on a very poorly understood part of our history. Hopefully as time goes by more material from this period will come to light and tell us about our ancestors.

Peter Reavill

Portable Antiquities Scheme - Shropshire and Herefordshire

Twitter:PASin the Marches@PeterReavill

Whitchurch Museum is especially grateful to the following people and groups for their generous support in acquiring these amazing finds:

The Art Fund, The late Miss Marjorie Jones, Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, Whitchurch Town Council, Prees Parish Council, Whitchurch History and Archaeology Group, Mr and Mrs Adams, Mr and Mrs Willis, The Frioends of Whitchurch Heritage and St Alkmans Lodge (no 2311).


Mrs Peggy Mullock - County Councillor for Whitchurch North

This is a "great coup for Whitchurch and the local area - it's only right that the tags should be kept in the museum nearest to where they were found"

Dr Judith Hoyle - Volunteer Curator at Whitchurch Museum & Archives

"As an accredited museum Whitchurch Heritage Centre was offered the chance to acquire these important items of Treasure by The British Museum. Thanks to a substantial grant from the Art Fund and the generosity of groups and individuals we were able to raise the amount of money required.

There are currently no Early Medieval items in the collection and so the pair of silver tags nicely bridge the gap between our Roman and late Medieval finds. These important artefacts not only enhance the collection but showcase the talents and abilities of previous inhabitants of the area."

Information on the Treasure Act can be found here:

Images of the tags and more detailed reports can be seen here:

All images can be downloaded and used freely - please acknowledge their source and that: They are used with the permission of the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Information about Whitchurch Heritage Centre can be found here:

Details of The Art Fund purchase scheme

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Inquest: Gold Medieval Brooch from Shrewsbury

Published: 5 years ago Author:

Medieval gold annular brooch from ShrewsburyMr. Ellery, HM Coroner for Shropshire held an inquest today into a recently discovered Gold Medieval Brooch from Shrewsbury. The brooch was reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme having been found while searching with a metal-detector on a rally on cultivated land near Shrewsbury during early November 2012.

The brooch is made of gold and is a circular / oval shape - now much distorted. The frame is of triangular section with the upper face being decorated with two floral / flower patterns formed with a central ring around which four petals extend. The interior side of the frame is decorated with a continuous band of punched rings. Whilst the outer is inscribed with a motto written Medieval French in Lombardic script: EN TOD C'EST PRE.The transcription of the motto means in all orafter all it is near. Such mottos usually refer to love with the brooch being a sign or reminder of givers desire / affection and or love. The floral bosses and pin separate the inscription. The reverse of the frame is flat and is not decorated. There is a restriction for the pin on the frame and the pin is complete. Similar annular brooches are dated to the late 13th and 14th centuries - they often hold messages of love, fealty, faith or piety - all of which are courtly or chivalric attributes in the Medieval world. The inscription - and precious metal - both denote that this brooch is of the highest status and would have been worn by a rich noblewoman or important merchants wife.

Shropshire Museums have expressed an interest in acquiring the find for the people of Shropshire - with the hope that it will be displayed in their medieval gallery at Shrewsbury Museum. Now the find has been declared treasure - it will be valued by the Governments Treasure Valuation Committee and the museum will be given a period of grace to raise the relevant funds. These monies will be paid to both the finder and landowner as a reward under the Treasure Act (1996).

Shrewsbury Museum has a number of important medieval treasures on permanent display including:

The Myddle Gold Coins:

The Baschurch Hoard:

The Condover Ring:

Bayston Hill Seal Matrix:

More information and images of the Shrewsbury Brooch (used with permission of British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme) can be found here:

More information about PAS and Treasure can be found here:


Peter Reavill - Finds Liaison Officer (Shropshire and Herefordshire)

Portable Antiquities Scheme


Tel: 01584 813 641


Twitter: PAS in the Marches@PeterReavill

8th October 2015

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PAS Annual Conference 2015 - PASt Explorers: Finds recording in the local community

Published: 5 years ago Author:

We are delighted to announce that the Portable Antiquities Scheme's 2015 conference celebrates the launch of PASt Explorers, the Scheme's five year Heritage Lottery Funded project to recruit and train volunteers from local communities, increasing the capacity of the PAS to record archaeological objects found by members of the public.

Wiltshire <abbr title=Wiltshire PAS volunteer examining a Roman vessel hoard from Pewsey. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

This conference aims to illustrate how volunteers have contributed to archaeological knowledge, and asks how we can better demonstrate the impact and celebrate the value of involving volunteers in archaeology on individuals and society as well as understanding our shared past.

The conference takes place in the BP lecture theatre at the British Museum on Monday 23rd November 2015 and is open to all PAS volunteers, staff and researchers. Refreshments (tea/coffee) will be provided free of charge. Lunch can be purchased from one of a selection of restaurants and cafés in and around the British Museum.

A speaker at a podium in the BP lecture theatre at the British Museum talking to a conference crowdA conference at the British Museum. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

Admission to the conference is free but advance booking is essential. Please see the provisional programme and reserve your place on the Eventbrite webpage here: closes at 12:00 noon on Friday 20th November 2015. We look forward to welcoming many of our colleagues, volunteers and supporters to our conference at the British Museum later in the year.

In future years, a PASt Explorers volunteer conference will be organised separately to the PAS annual conference and this will be held in a different region and venue each year.

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Supporting the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Published: 5 years ago Author:

Over the years we have had many enquiries from our supporters asking how they can further support the Portable Antiquities Scheme and in response to this we have launched a JustGiving page. With your help through JustGiving we can continue re-writing the archaeology and history of England, Wales and your local areas. You can now donate to support the work of the PAS at

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Thank You and Good Luck Roger

Published: 5 years ago Author:

Upon the retirement of Roger Bland from the British Museum, all in PAS would like to express a massive debt of gratitude to him for all he has done for British archaeology. His work bringing about the PAS and the reform of Treasure has not only ensured that the most important archaeological finds have been acquired by museums up and down the country for local people to learn about and enjoy, but has also led to a great advancement in knowledge through the recording and further study of these finds, and the identification of new sites that have come to light because of them. Best of luck for the future Roger...

Roger Bland sorting coin hoard bag 1

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PAS at the Festival of British Archaeology 2015 - The North

Published: 5 years ago Author:

In this final instalment, we highlight the 2015 Festival of Archaeology (11th - 26th July 2015) events involving the Portable Antiquities Scheme's (PAS) Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) in the North of England. The Festival is coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and offers members of the public the chance to explore their local archaeology through a range of outreach events and activities.

On Thursday 16th July (14:00 onwards), South Ribble Museum will be hosting an illustrated lecture and drop-in archaeological finds afternoon with Dot Boughton, FLO for Cumbria and Lancashire. Dot will talk about the discovery and significance of the Silverdale Hoard, the third largest Viking silver hoard,found in 2011 and laterpurchased by Lancashire County Council's Museum Service.As part of the Treasures of South Ribble exhibition, South RibbleMuseum is currently displaying 20 coins from the Cuerdale Hoard, the largest Viking silver hoard from western Europe, on loan from the British Museum. Dot will also be helping to identify and record archaeological finds for members of the public at Kendal Museum on Friday 17th July (11:00 - 14:00).

Number 18: The Silverdale Hoard

FLO for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, Vanessa Oakden, is running a couple of finds surgeries to identify and record finds this July, coinciding with the Festival of Archaeology. She will be at the Museum of Liverpool on Wednesday 15th July (14:00 - 16:00) and at Manchester Museum on Friday 17th July (10:00 - 16:00).

To coincide with the Festival of Archaeology, the Royal Numismatic Society and the British Numismatic Society are hosting a joint day conference on coin hoarding at the Yorkshire Museum, York on Saturday 11th July (10:15 - 16:30) which will discuss the most recent research on the Viking Vale of York treasure and the newly acquired Bedale hoard, amongst others. There will be contributions from several of our current volunteers, Carl Savage (Lancashire and Cumbria) and Rachel Cubitt (North and East Yorkshire), as well as former PAS staff, Andrew Woods and Eleanor Ghey. See the conference's Eventbrite webpage for the full programme and details about booking.

In the North-East, our new FLO for Durham and Darlington, Ellie Cox, will be at the Museum of Archaeology's new gallery at the redeveloped Palace Green Library in Durham to identify archaeological finds unearthed by members of the public on Friday 17th July (13:00 - 15:00).

There are lots of other archaeological outreach activities taking place nationwide this July and you can search to find out what's happening on your doorstep on the Festival of Archaeology's website. If you're attending a Festival event, make sure to complete the Festival's visitor survey about your experience for a chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher. If you don't get to meet your local Finds Liaison Officer at one of their finds days this month, check our upcoming events to find out when your local FLO is holding their next drop-in session.

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PAS at the Festival of British Archaeology 2015 - The Midlands

Published: 5 years ago Author:

The Council for British Archaeology's (CBA) twenty-fifth annual Festival of Archaeology takes place this month (11th - 26th July 2015) and following round-ups of the events involving Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) staff in the South East and South West of England, this instalment looks at what our Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) and volunteers based in the Midlands are taking part in.

Wendy Scott (FLO for Leicestershire and Rutland) is attending an Anglo-Saxon activity day at Harborough Museum on Wednesday 22nd July (10:00 - 16:00). Finds from the Time Team excavation of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground at West Langton will be on display and Wendy, who attended the Time Team excavation, will be showing other Anglo-Saxon artefacts from the district recorded by the PAS. Wendy is also attending Charnwood Museum's 'Day of Archaeology' on Saturday 25th July (11:00 - 16:00). Visitors can bring any finds to be identified and recorded by her as well as having a go at detecting for 'treasure' in a sandpit with members of Loughborough Coin and Search Society.

Our new FLO for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Alastiar Willis, will be at Derby Museum and Art Gallery on Wednesday 22nd July (10:00 - 14:00) for an archaeological finds day identifying artefacts brought along by visitors and presenting treasures from the Museum's collection in object handling activities.

For further information about these and other events taking place in the Midlands during the 2015 Festival of Archaeology please see the CBA's Festival website. The fourth and final instalment about the PAS' involvement in the Festival of Archaeology, to be posted here soon, will look at events taking place in the North of England.

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PAS at the Festival of British Archaeology 2015 - The South East

Published: 5 years ago Author:

In this second instalment, we look at upcoming events involving the Portable Antiquities Scheme's (PAS) Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) in South-East England as part of the 2015 Festival of Archaeology (11th - 26th July). The Festival of Archaeology is a nationwide fortnight-long festival of outreach events and activities offering members of the public the chance to explore their local archaeology. The annual Festival is coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and celebrates its twenty-fifth year in 2015.

Anni Byard, the Scheme's FLO for Oxfordshire and West Berkshire, is helping to supervise the Discovering Dorchester research project run by Oxford Archaeology and the University of Oxford's School of Archaeology. Dorchester is the only known site of Iron Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon urban settlement unobscured by later development. The sixth season of excavations returns to Dorchester's allotments to continue exploring the early 2nd and 1st century AD Roman town. The excavation team are regularly updating ablog about the discoveries being made on site, and there will be an open day on Saturday 18th July (12:30 - 17:00) with guided tours of the excavation trenches and finds and hands on activities. As well as being the Finds Officer at Dorchester, Anni will also be identifying finds at the West Berkshire Museum in Newbury on Wednesday 15th July (14:00 - 16:00), and at Abingdon County Hall Museum on Thursday 23rd July (10:30 - 16:00) alongside Roman themed family activities and the Gateway to the Gods exhibition about Roman settlement in the area.

Shorwell, Isle of Wight - Midsummer Fair

On the Isle of Wight, our FLO for the island, Frank Basford, will be at Newport Roman Villa on Saturday 25th July (11:00 - 15:00) to identify and record finds brought along by visitors. There will also be a range of craft activities and a family treasure hunt on offer at the villa. Back on the mainland, Faye Minter of the Suffolk PAS team will also be on hand to identify archaeological finds discovered by members of the public at Quatrefoil's 'Bringing Local History Alive' event presenting their research on the local history of several mid-Suffolk villages on Saturday 11th July (10:00 16:00) at St Mary's Church Rickinghall Inferior.

This month, Jen Jackson (FLO for Medway and Kent) is holding drop-in finds identification surgeries at Maidstone County Hall on Friday 17th July (17:00 - 18:00) and at the Beany in Canterbury on Monday 20th July (10:00 - 13:00). She is also offering dedicated appointments on these two days but these must be booked in advance.

As well as these open days and finds surgeries, our newly appointed FLO for Essex, Ben Paites will be heading a Twitter campaign during the Festival of Archaeology on the Colchester Museums Twitter feed, profiling finds that have come into the museum through PAS (both Treasure and other finds) and explaining about his role as a FLO for the county.

Find out what our FLOs in the Midlands are up to during the Festival in the third of four instalments, coming soon. For further information about events taking place in the South-East during the 2015 Festival of Archaeology please see the CBA's Festival website.

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