The Staffordshire Hoard – the largest cache of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver ever found in Britain – is predominantly made up of weapon parts and other martial gear, including sword fittings, ceremonial objects, and fragments of a helmet (see CA 236). Its contents are split between Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke- on-Trent, and this latter institution has now reopened with the first major redisplay of the hoard since the 2019 publication of the landmark monograph The Staffordshire Hoard: an Anglo-Saxon Treasure (CA 349 and 368).
The hoard was discovered near Hammerwich in Staffordshire, in what was once part of the early medieval kingdom of Mercia, but some of its objects appear to have been produced further afield, with stylistic links to East Anglia. The circumstances of its burial are unclear, but its exquisitely worked items – many of which appear to have been methodically stripped from larger objects – could represent war trophies gathered during Mercian military campaigns against its neighbouring kingdoms (CA 290 and 361).
The new exhibition, Staffordshire Hoard: Treasure of Mercia, tells the story of the hoard and its items in the context of the battles and tributes that followed the expansion of Mercia under King Penda in the first half of the 7th century AD. It draws on over a decade of conservation work and research since the hoard’s discovery in 2009 – including the museum’s own Staffordshire Hoard: Reimagined project (funded by Arts Council England and Stoke-on-Trent City Council).
Visitors will be able to see some of the assemblage’s best-known items up close, including the great folded cross and a gold strip bearing a biblical inscription. Meanwhile, a reproduction of the Staffordshire Hoard helmet, displayed alongside several pieces of the original object, shows what this high-status headgear might once have looked like.
Text: H Blair
Image: © The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
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