A fundraising campaign to save ancient jewellery believed to be the earliest example of Iron Age gold ever discovered in Britain has been given a £65,000 boost.
The four intricate artefacts that make up the Leekfrith Iron Age torcs have been valued at £325,000 by a panel of independent experts known as the Treasure Valuation Committee, sparking a three-month countdown to raise the money so that they can be kept on public display at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.
A grant fund provided by Arts Council England and managed by the Victoria and Albert Museum has awarded £40,000 towards the appeal. The Headley Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, has made a £25,000 grant. This has taken the total raised so far to approximately £91,000, which includes generous donations from members of the public and local businesses.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, in partnership with the Friends of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery – which is leading the public fundraising campaign on behalf of the museum – now has until January 5, 2018, after the deadline was extended for another month. If the valuation price is not met, the artefacts could potentially be separated out and sold to private bidders. They are currently on display in Room 2 at the British Museum.
The ancient treasure first captured the public imagination – and global media – when they were unveiled for the first time at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in February, going on to attract 21,000 visitors in just one month. They were also featured in BBC4’s Digging for Britain on November 22 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09gfxbj/digging-for-britain-series-6-1-west).
Chairman of the Friends of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery Ian Lawley said: “These two grants to the museum are a really significant boost to our campaign and are an indication of the national importance of the torcs. The grants have been made possible by the extraordinary generosity of local donors, who have shown how much they value their heritage by giving to the appeal.
“But there is still a long way to go to meet our target and we hope that many more people will dig deep into their pockets to help save these extraordinary and beautiful objects for the people of North Staffordshire.”
Other fundraising bodies will be meeting on December 12 to make a decision on applications made for further grants, which will hopefully take the total raised to its £325,000 target.
Councillor Anthony Munday, the city council’s cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “These treasures are fine examples of the rich cultural history of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, at a time when we are bidding to be the UK City of Culture 2021.
“The response from the public and businesses that we have already received is fantastic, and we are very confident that we will reach our target. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Arts Council England, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Headley Trust for this very generous boost, to help us on our way.”
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, and its friends organisation, have a track record of leading fundraising campaigns to save unparalleled artefacts and world-leading treasures. It includes the Staffordshire Hoard – the largest and most valuable collection of Anglo Saxon treasure ever discovered, and the Wedgwood First Day’s Vase, made by Josiah Wedgwood himself on the opening day of his Etruria pottery works in 1769.
Museum visitors can show their support for the Leekfrith Torcs fundraising campaign at donation boxes inside the museum, or online via http://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/leekfrithtorcs.
The four torcs are jewellery consisting of three necklaces and a bracelet. Experts believe they date back to 400BC. They are thought to be from the continent, possibly Germany or France, and would have been worn by important women in society.
The artefacts were discovered in Leek last Christmas, and archaeologists from the city council and Staffordshire County Council supported site investigations on the land. They were declared treasure at an inquest hearing in February, and since the popular exhibition at the museum, have been carefully examined by experts at the British Museum. They were put before the national Treasure Valuation Committee, where a panel of treasure registrars had the difficult task of putting a value on ancient items never before seen in this country.
Paula Brikci, collections development manager at Arts Council England, said: “We are very pleased to be able to support this campaign through the ACE/V&A Purchase Fund, which supports organisations up and down the country to buy important objects which enrich their collections and bring important objects into public ownership.”
Philip Atkins, Staffordshire County Council’s leader, said: “This important funding boost means we are one step closer to bringing these fantastic finds discovered in the Staffordshire Moorlands back home so people can enjoy and learn from the history of the torcs for years to come.”
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