Wardown Museum In Luton Pips New York Met To Wenlock Tankard

By Paul Dance | 09 March 2006
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a photograph of a dark coloured jug

The Wenlock Tankard - now in the safe hands of Wardown Park Museum in Luton. © Luton Museums

The Wardown Park Museum in Luton has succeeded in buying the Wenlock Tankard for £750,000, 300 times its normal annual acquisitions budget.

A purchase made possible with help from The National Art Collections Fund and The National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Luton museum managed to beat off competition from New York’s Metropolitan Museum which last year spent $100 million on art.

“The two Wenlocks associated with the jug, William and his nephew John, both lived in Luton and the family name figures in the medieval guild register in our collection” said Maggie Appleton, Luton museum head.

Sold in 2005 at a country house auction, the Met offered £750,000 but ministers deferred an export licence, leaving Luton to find a matching sum by March 19.

It is a rare example of a jug cast by an English bronze founder and bearing his mark. Virtually unknown until its recent sale, the jug gives scholars the important opportunity to research into Medieval metalworking skills and expertise.

Stephen Johnson, head of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), said: "This intriguing jug, with its royal crest and dedication to My Lord Wenlok, offers a rare insight into the medieval world and into the fascinating life of John, Lord Wenlock, who from 1461 to 1469 was chief butler of England, serving the King on royal occasions."

The 18-inch high bronze jug is dated to around 1350 and is the latest East Anglian acquisition to show how museums in the region can occasionally hold their own against some of the biggest art institutions in the world.

In the middle of February Colchester museum acquired two Anglo-Saxon silver pennies - a week after The British Museum bought a gold Anglo-Saxon coin. The Colchester acquisitions pre-date the British Museum one by a hundred years.

Shows the Renaissance in the Regions logo.

Paul Dance is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the East of England region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

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