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.
THE 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.
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.
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.
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.
A selection of Roman artifacts from the 2002 Kingsley Fields excavation conducted by Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit and funded by Bellway Homes Limited have gone on display at Nantwich Museum. The excavation is regarded as one of the most important to have been carried out in Nantwich and revealed a Roman industrial site engaged in salt making along with a variety of artifacts. The Roman settlement in the town was established in the 2nd century AD and existed for about 150 years.
Salt making tools, pottery for serving food and decoration, other tools such as an adze hammer used for working wood, a variety of household goods and even a 2000 year old loo seat can be seen. Craftsmen and farmers were active in the area and a reaping hook is displayed which would have been used to harvest locally grown cereals and vegetables.
The project was managed by the Cheshire West and Chester Museums Service. The new display is an important step in exploring Nantwich in Roman times and includes an interpretive panel and interactivity where visitors are invited to match modern objects with items from the Roman and other collections.