Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Newark & Sherwood Council is not just talk

A torc (an iron age gold collar) worth more than £350,000 that was found by an amateur metal detectorist in a muddy field in Nottinghamshire has been described as the best find of its kind in half a century, according to a Guardian article.

"I was only in the field because a customer kept me late," Maurice Richardson, a tree surgeon from Newark, said yesterday. "Normally I'd never want to go into this field because a plane crashed there in the last war, and the whole place is littered with bits of metal." The first beep from his detector was indeed a chunk of wartime scrap metal, but as he bent down to discard it, his machine gave a louder signal. Expecting to find a bigger chunk of fuselage, he instead discovered the 2,200-year-old collar.

The piece, a near twin of one already in the British Museum, was the most spectacular of 1,257 finds reported over the last three years. Treasure reports have increased every year since the Portable Antiquities scheme was set up to record finds by the public in England and Wales. The scheme itself came near to being lost in government cuts but, like the torc, has been rescued!

"It's a fabulous thing, the best Iron Age find in 50 years," said JD Hill, head of the British Museum's iron age department. "When I first saw a picture of it I thought somebody was pulling my leg because it is so like the Sedgeford torc in our collection that it must have been made by the same hand. What is fascinating about it is that it turned up where no torc should be - to put it mildly, the Newark region is not known for major high-status iron age finds. This wasn't in a grave, wasn't on a hilltop - it opens up a whole new chapter of the history of this area."

Unusually, the torc has been acquired by his local museum in Newark, after heroic fundraising efforts. Most such finds go to national museums. Sarah Dawes, head of leisure and culture at Newark and Sherwood district council, said: "I took one look and rang my chief executive to say, sit tight, don't leave the office, we've got something to tell you."

When it was originally reported back in 2005, the BBC ran a story on the torc, stating it was probably worth £100K. In the event the artefact was valued at £350K. It has therefore been a massive achievement for the Newark and Sherwood Museum Service to acquire it for display locally, as JD Hill of the BM has been quoted: "It’s a daunting prospect for the British Museum or the V&A to raise £350,000. "

The local council stated in their minutes, that they decided to seek funding to purchase the object because they wanted to: ..ensure that an exceptional artefact relating to the historical importance of the District is secured for local and national interest. Many congratulations to the officers and Members for a job well done.!

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