Roman Treasures of Cheshire at Nantwich Museum

The Roman Treasures of Cheshire display at Nantwich Museum

An exhibition of two Roman hoards discovered in Cheshire has opened at Nantwich Museum and will run until Saturday 8 July. The coins and jewellery were buried for safe keeping nearly 2000 years ago but their owners never returned for them.

The Malpas Hoard consists of 35 coins struck before the conquest of Britain and possibly associated with the capture of Caratacus, leader of the Catuvallani tribe.

The Knutsford Hoard involves 103 coins, three brooches and two finger rings ranging in date from 32 BC to AD 200.

The hoards provide evidence of the way of life of local people in the early Roman period with possible links to the Cheshire salt fields and coastal trading centres.

The hoards were discovered by metal detectorists and have been on display at the British Museum. Congleton Museum and Liverpool Museum jointly purchased the hoards thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. After display in Nantwich they will return to Congleton Museum.

Admission to the museum and exhibition is free.

Museum Commemorates the Battle of Nantwich

Barbara and Janet on Holly Holy Day

Holly Holy Day, which celebrates the lifting of the 1643/44 siege through the Battle of Nantwich on 25 January 1644, was commemorated in the town on 28 January. It was a busy day for the museum, and we welcomed over 600 visitors.  They were able to take advantage of tours of the town, learn about muskets from members of the Sealed Knot and enjoy music from the time provided by local group Forlorne Hope.

As well as learning about the Civil War from the permanent display a temporary exhibition explained the events leading to the battle whilst the recently constructed large scale model of the battlefield was also on display together with a matchlock musket loaned by the Grosvenor Museum in Chester. The display was arranged by the museum’s Civil War Centre which is now offering later in the year an evening class led by Chairman, Dr Keith Lawrence and will be ideal for those wishing to learn more about the seventeenth century conflict.

The volunteer team did sterling work welcoming visitors and helping with their queries. Particular mention should be made of Barbara and Janet (pictured) who dressed for the occasion and braved the elements standing outside to invite visitors to join us.

The Road to the Battle of Nantwich exhibition, which examines the English Civil War and its commemoration, is at the museum until 25th February 2017.

Battle of Nantwich

There is a display in Nantwich Museum’s main gallery about the Battle of Nantwich includes the letter from Sir Thomas Fairfax, the leader of more than 2,500 Parliamentarian soldiers, to General Monroe after the battle telling what he had done with some prisoners.

Parliamentarians in the English Civil War and endured a six-week siege by the Royalist forces.

After the siege was lifted, in January 1644, the local people marked the event in subsequent years by wearing sprigs of holly in their hats or on their clothing.

Holly Holy Day

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Musketry demonstration led by members of the Sealed Knot

The annual commemoration on January 25 became known as Holly Holy Day. The practice faded out after a time, but was revived in 1972 following the introduction of a wreath-laying ceremony to mark those who died in the battle and the siege. It followed an initiative by the late Percy Corry, a local historian. Now, on the Saturday nearest to January 25th, wreaths are laid in memory of those who died and the battle is re-enacted by the Sealed Knot Society on Mill Island. The first re-enactment of the battle took place in 1973 on Barony Park but is now held on Mill Island in the centre of Nantwich.

The commemoration is organised by the town’s Holly Holy Day Society. The committee members include the Museum’s Community Development Manager, Kate Dobson.

Every year the Museum takes part in the town’s commemoration of the battle and was pleased to welcome members of the Sealed Knot and John Dixon from Black Wolf Wargaming to the Museum at this year’s event.

The Worleston Ring

ring2THE Museum has a number of rings on display, including the Worleston Ring.   An ancient gold “snake” ring, it was unearthed at Worleston, near Nantwich, by a metal detectorist. It was declared Treasure Trove and later acquired by Nantwich Museum thanks to a bequest and additional donation.
The spiral ring, thought to be unique in Britain, dates from the late Roman or early medieval period.    The ring was bought using a bequest from one of the museum’s former volunteer workers, Betty Goodwin, which was substantially increased by her family to cover the full asking price.   An expert at the British museum said there appeared to be no close British parallel to the ring although it is similar to a Roman ring found at Hadrian’s Wall.    While spiral gold rings are not uncommon in Scandinavia, and are dated from around AD 200 – 600, they are generally plain. The Worleston Ring is decorated with triangular punch marks and the British Museum says it can’t therefore be described as typically Scandinavian.
What is not in question is that had Nantwich Museum not managed to buy the ring the British Museum would have attempted to do so, such is the interest in it.
The former curator of Nantwich Museum, Susan Pritchard, said at the time of its acquisition: “We are thrilled to have been able to acquire this fine piece of ancient jewellery. It’s a very delicate ring which could only have been worn by someone with very slender fingers and it’s fascinating to wonder who that person might have been.”

The ring was discovered by treasure hunter David Beckett who lives near Crewe.

The Goodwin family were guests at a reception to mark the opening of the Nantwich Treasures exhibition – where the ring was a central attraction – in February 2005.

The Salt Ship

shipdisplay-300x204A SECTION of a 700-year-old oak tree discovered under an area of Nantwich soil excited archaeologists, museum officials, and others – with good reason – back in 2004. For this was an ancient salt ship – or vessel in which brine (salt suspended in water) was stored as part of the salt-producing process. (It was not a sailing craft).

Clearly, as a wooden utensil it could not be used to boil the brine! That was done in pans.

The ship was found under land on which houses once stood. After the initial discovery it was reburied while a Lottery grant was applied for. Thanks to Cheshire County Council that bid was successful and the Heritage Lottery Fund provided £100,000 for the painstaking project to save the salt ship for posterity.
The medieval salt ship was taken from the ground in January 2004 at the start of a two-year preservation project.

Six barrels which had the same purpose were also unearthed, but it was not possible to save the fragile structures. ONE section of the salt ship (sadly, just a third) found in Nantwich is on display in our second gallery.

Call in to see it – and to SMELL the Nantwich mud in which the ship lay buried!

Mirrors help you to see the salt ship from all angles, and there are photographs and other displays which tell the story of the rescue and preservation mission. There is also a display of artefacts found with the salt ship.

In addition, on sale in the Museum Shop is a video called “Ship Ahoy – The Raising of the Nantwich Salt Ship” which tells the story of our top exhibit

 

 

The Cheese Room

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The Cheese Room is a permanent exhibition featuring the cheese-making industry of South Cheshire.

There are artefacts from local cheese-making, accompanied by photographs of the work, together with photographs of local personalities.

In the first extension, after the main galleries, you will find The Cheese Room – a permanent exhibition featuring the cheese-making industry of South Cheshire. There are artefacts from local cheese-making, accompanied by photographs of the work, together with photographs of local personalities.

Above the Cheese Room is the useful Joseph Heler Room, which can be used for meetings. Joseph Heler was a well-known local cheese producer and distributor.  He is pictured below using a cheese iron or cheese borer to take a sample of one of his cheeses.

You can visit Joseph Heler’s website online at http://www.joseph-heler.co.uk

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Welsh Row Roman and Medieval Roads

Thanks to replacement work on gas pipes in Welsh Row, Roman and Medieval roads came to light in August 2007. Earthworks Archaeology were keeping a watching brief on the work being carried out by contractors May Gurney in the hope that such finds might emerge.

Part of the Medieval timber causeway in a trench
Part of the Medieval timber causeway in a trench

These pictures, supplied to Nantwich Museum by Earthworks Archaeology, feature the Roman trackway and the Medieval timber causeway. A piece of Roman pottery and some discarded fragments of salt barrels from the town’s Medieval salt works can also be seen.

The roman trackway was lying at a depth of around 2.5 metres under Welsh Row and at a different alignment – around 45 degrees offset – to the present road.

Samples of the finds are being subjected to tree-ring dating. Early results show the Medieval causeway dates from the second half of the 13th century.    

Mike Leah (now Cheshire East Council’s Development Control Archaeologist) said unearthing the Roman and Medieval finds in Welsh Row had not been responsible for the delay in completing the road works. He was quoted in The Nantwich Chronicle of September 12.

Our thanks to Earthworks Archaeology for the pictures and details

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The timbers in the Roman trackway can be seen (right) at the bottom of one of the trenches. Earthworks Archaeology spokesman, Will Walker, said the track seemed to be close to the natural ground and may not have been raised on a causeway. There were indications that the track superseded, or was contemporary with, a pebbled surface.

Impressions of pebbles can be seen in the timber, as in the example above. The groove in the section of trackway is the unfortunate result of it being hit by a digger’s scoop.

James Hall

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A painting of Nantwich historian James Hall greets visitors as they enter the museum. It hangs in the main gallery.

The portrait was painted by James Hall’s son, Walter J. Hall, in 1943 – that was 29 years after his father’s death – and given to the town. It was originally hung in Nantwich Free Library (the building that is now the home of Nantwich Museum) but when the county library service moved to its present building, next to the Civic Hall, the portrait went with them.

Trying to trace the portrait, Nantwich historian John Lake mentioned the painting to a member of the library staff – who recalled that it was under a flight of stairs in the building.

There it was rediscovered, with a broken frame and in a dirty condition.

Thanks to Mr Lake, it has now been restored with grants from Cheshire County Council and the North West Museums Service and returned to Nantwich Museum where it has been given a permanent home.

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The portrait includes pictures of Lincoln Cathedral and Nantwich Parish Church.

The author of “Hall’s History of Nantwich” was born in Lincoln on February 20, 1846, but moved to Nantwich at the age of 20. In 1875 he became the first headmaster of Willaston School, which is two miles from Nantwich. He retired to Chester where he died on October 6, 1914.

A plaque (right) in the porch of St Mary’s Parish Church, commemorating the centenary of James Hall’s birth, was instigated by local historian, Percy Corry, when he was Church Librarian. He arranged the collection which found the money to erect the plaque.