Staffordshire Hoard 'saved for the nation'

Danielle Dwyer,Press Association
Tuesday 23 March 2010 16:03 GMT

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The Staffordshire Hoard has been "saved for the nation" after a cash boost from a Government heritage fund, it was announced today.

The collection - the largest ever find of Anglo-Saxon gold - was unearthed on Staffordshire farmland by a metal detector enthusiast last year and later valued at £3.3 million.

Today the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), the Government's fund of last resort for heritage items at risk, pledged £1,285,000.

The grant, added to the amount already raised during a nationwide fundraising drive, means that the hoard can now be purchased and displayed permanently in the UK.

The fundraising drive to ensure the hoard remained in the region where it was found was overseen by The Art Fund, an independent charity.

A spokeswoman said: "The Art Fund is delighted to announce that the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest archaeological Anglo-Saxon find ever unearthed, has been saved for the nation."

Members of the public donated more than £900,000 towards the appeal, which also received financial support from Birmingham and Stoke city councils.

The campaign had been set a deadline of April 17, meaning it reached its target more than three weeks ahead of schedule.

The Art Fund's director, Stephen Deuchar, said: "We have been absolutely bowled over by the enthusiasm and fascination the Staffordshire Hoard has sparked amongst the British public, as well as visitors from abroad.

"It is wonderful news that the National Heritage Memorial Fund has enabled the target of £3.3 million to be reached ahead of the deadline, and I hope that this will give the West Midlands a head-start with the next stage in fundraising for the conservation, research and display of the treasure."

Historian and broadcaster Dr David Starkey helped to launch the fundraising campaign in Birmingham on January 13.

Reacting to today's announcement, Dr Starkey expressed delight that the treasures would be saved for posterity.

"This is wonderful news for historians worldwide - the Staffordshire Hoard provides us with vital clues to our ancient past, and now we can set about decoding them," he said.

Martin Mullaney, Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said: "Not only have we managed to raise the necessary £3.3 million to return the hoard to its rightful home a month ahead of schedule, but a staggering £900,000 of this has been raised by personal donations.

"I have been overwhelmed by the public response and can't thank enough everyone who has given and supported our campaign in helping us bringing the hoard home."

More than 100,000 people have so far viewed items from the hoard, which have been on display in Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham and at the British Museum.

In addition to public support from people living as far afield as Japan and the United States, the campaign has received substantial donations from trusts and foundations.

However, The Art Fund emphasised that a further £1.7 million must be found so the hoard can be properly conserved, studied and displayed.

Plans for the future conservation and interpretation of the hoard include the creation of a "Mercian Trail" which would highlight the history of Mercia, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom which covered the West Midlands area.

The hoard was found last July in a field near Hammerwich, on the border between Staffordshire and the West Midlands, by metal detectorist Terry Herbert.

Officially declared to be treasure by the South Staffordshire Coroner, the hoard contains over 1,500 mostly gold objects, including some inlaid with precious stones, and is thought to date back to the 7th century.

Historians believe the collection, which may have once belonged to royalty, could alter perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England.

The £3.3 million raised to acquire the hoard will now be split equally between Mr Herbert and Fred Johnson, the owner of the field in which it was discovered.

Speaking last month, Mr Johnson said he felt privileged rather than proud that the hoard had been unearthed on his land.

"You can be proud of something you have done yourself - this was just an incredible stroke of luck," he said.

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