The Wickham Hoard of Iron Age gold coins saved for Ipswich Museum

By Ben Miller | 21 June 2011
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A photo of a stash of gold coins
© Suffolk Archaeological Unit
The Wickham Market Hoard, the stash of Iron Age coins buried by a tribe which roamed the East of England 2,000 years ago, will go on permanent display in Ipswich after museum officials raised the £315,000 asking price to keep it in the county.

Ipswich Museum launched a two-month campaign to save the 840 sacrificial coins, which have sparked courtroom controversy between their two feuding finders, when the Treasury made them available at the end of April 2011.

A fast-tracked bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund yielded a £226,000 reward, augmented by major contributions from the Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

They will now go on show at the museum, marking a coup for a region which has frequently seen illustrious treasures such as the Sutton Hoo burial finds head south to the British Museum’s collection.

“The Iceni people buried their gold and kept it safe for 2,000 years,” said Caroline McDonald, the Curator of Archaeology at Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, who called the discovery a “real, major find” when the fundraising drive began.

“Now Ipswich Museum is proud to take up the responsibility for keeping it safe for years to come. A national treasure found in Suffolk soil will be kept in the county.”

The hoard represents a shimmering haul from a tribe who covered Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Cambridgeshire two generations before their warrior queen, Boudica, led the clan to revolt against the Romans in AD60.

Norwich Castle Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum are among the venues expected to receive a touring exhibition of the coins.

“This is a truly huge boost not only for the museums service but for the people of Ipswich, Suffolk and beyond,” said Bryony Rudkin, of Ipswich Borough Council.

“They will now be able to see and learn more about this staggering find. It will prove to be a big visitor attraction for the town and I look forward to it going on display, not only here but around the region.”

Robin Llewellyn, the Head of the HLF East of England, said the Hoard was “a wonderful discovery”.

“It is absolutely fantastic that we have been able to ensure this collection is saved for the nation, and that it will held locally so that it can be enjoyed from people across the community,” he added.

Local residents will be invited to help conservators care for the hoard. Groups for young people and schoolchildren will also give “alternative interpretations” to the coins and use them as a focal point for creative activities.

Curator’s Choice: Caroline McDonald on the Wickham Market Hoard

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