A ring revealing family divisions will be displayed to the public when the National Civil War Centre opens next year
Cannon balls, battle maps, swords and propaganda tracts are among the exhibits set to be revealed when the National Civil War Centre – a new £5.4 million venue recounting the civilian side of the 17th century conflict between King and Parliament – opens in Nottinghamshire next month.
© Doug Jackson
Curators say the experience of being caught in the crossfire will be told through treasures offering “unprecedented detail”. One of them, an exquisite mid-17th century gold ring, holds particular poignancy.
“The ring is inscribed with the words ‘No calamity will separate our amity’,” says Glyn Hughes, who is responsible for Collections and Exhibitions at Newark and Sherwood District Council, alluding to partisan clans.
© Doug Jackson
“We know that some families had split Royalist and Parliamentary loyalties and brothers even ended up fighting against each other.
“One theory we are working on is that it was given by a friend or family member to someone who was on the opposite side of the conflict.
“It is not too fanciful to think that for the ring giver the bonds of love transcended differences of beliefs.
“It is a beautiful object.”
At the centre of the civil war, Newark endured three deadly sieges before the King surrendered the town, in 1646, to an army of scots attacking its northern edges. Kevin Winter, an Assistant Curator at Newark Museum, says the ring may have been lost or buried for its own safety before being found by a local metal detectorist.
“It all points to the turmoil of the civil war period when armies marched across the countryside,” he believes.
“We often forget what a violent period this was, when up to four percent of the English population died either through fighting or disease.
“The nation was ripped apart and few places tell that that story better than Newark. We have a wonderful collection of artefacts from the civil war – in just one of the hordes of money found locally there were 1,500 coins. Why was so much money buried?
“But it is the personal items like the gold ring that tell such powerful stories. “
The public will be able to inspect the ring when the centre opens in early 2015. It is currently being built in a year-long set of works within the Grade II-listed Old Magnus building, a 16th century structure which will have its historic features, including schoolboy graffiti from more than 300 years ago, preserved alongside a range of modernisation plans.
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