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New treasures go on show for the Treasure Act's 20th anniversary

A rare brooch in the form of a dove, and a silver coin from Anglo-Saxon times, a delicate medieval finger ring, and a tiny gold brooch with a pair of clasped hands, are the latest archaeological finds to go on show at Saffron Walden Museum this week.

A rare brooch in the form of a dove, and a silver coin from Anglo-Saxon times, a delicate medieval finger ring, and a tiny gold brooch with a pair of clasped hands, are the latest archaeological finds to go on show at Saffron Walden Museum this week.

The display will launch the museum's participation in Treasure 20, a partnership project of the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme, to highlight the important contribution of the Treasure Act to public museum collections around the country. Treasure 20 is a nationwide project which celebrates 20 years since the Treasure Act 1996 came into force in September 1997.

The finds reflect the range of objects reported by metal-detectorists and also chance discoveries made by members of the public, like the Anglo-Saxon coin. The ring and brooches were all declared treasure under the Treasure Act 1996 and were purchased for the museum's collections by Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd, with generous grant-aid from the Arts Council England / Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and The Headley Trust for purchase of the medieval ring from Stebbing. This delicate gold ring is set with an oval deep blue glass or gem, possibly a sapphire, and dates from around 1150 to 1400.

Also dating from around that time is a miniature gold brooch from Manuden, with a tiny pair of clasped hands. Brooches like this may have been popular gift to sweethearts and wives, so the mysterious initials 'WR MC IA' and 'M ME VM A' engraved on it may have had some secret significance to the wearer.

The unusual silver-gilt brooch found in Chrishall parish dates from the ninth century and is in the shape of a dove with a cross on its back. It probably represents the Holy Spirit and came from the continent.

The fourth find - a silver Anglo-Saxon 'sceatta' coin the size of a 5p piece - was spotted near a footpath by Shem Haque in Wicken Bonhunt parish. Finds of single coins do not count as treasure, and the finder and landowner very kindly gave the coin to Saffron Walden Museum. The coin has a well-travelled history; it was minted in the Southampton area of the south coast around 720-740 and is an unusual coin to find in Essex. The intricate design of a cross and rosettes on one side, and three fantastical dragon-headed creatures on the other, show how skilful Anglo-Saxon moneyers were in making these very early silver pennies. They reflect the growing network of trade between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and other lands around the North Sea at this period.

Anglo-Saxon silver coin cross, Wicken Bonhunt
Anglo-Saxon silver coin cross, Wicken Bonhunt
Medieval annular Brooch, Manuden
Medieval annular Brooch, Manuden
Medieval gold ring, Stebbing
Medieval gold ring, Stebbing
Silver gilt bird with cross brooch, Chrishall
Silver gilt bird with cross brooch, Chrishall

Curator Carolyn Wingfield said: "The collections and local heritage have been enriched by over 50 acquisitions made through the Treasure Act. Treasure finds from across Uttlesford district are on display and we will be featuring a selection on the museum's website and social media for 20 weeks, from June to October."

There will be a special Treasure Roadshow at the museum on Thursday 27 July with Sophie Flynn, the Portable Antiquities Scheme's Finds Liaison Officer for Essex.

Visitors can see the treasure finds on display in Saffron Walden Museum by looking for the special Treasure 20 labels, or follow the museum on its website www.saffronwaldenmuseum.org or on Twitter @SW_Museum. The Treasure 20 project can be followed using the hashtag #Treasure20.

Saffron Walden Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm, and Sundays and Bank Holidays 2-5pm.