Monday, 21 September 2009

Stunning royal jewels discovered and saved for the North East thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund

Stunning royal jewels discovered and saved for the North East thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund

The Heritage Lottery Fund has today awarded £274,400 to help Redcar and Cleveland Council showcase the life and death of a royal Saxon princess,whose grave was uncovered in an East Cleveland farmer's field. A collection of rare Anglo- Saxon jewellery that was found at the grave in Streethouse, Loftus will now be kept and displayed at the Kirkleatham Museum.

Some of the pieces from the collection are associated with a rare Anglo-Saxon ‘bed burial’ in which a female body is laid out on a decorated wooden bed accompanied by fine gold jewellery. Due to its rarity, this find is of huge national importance, and these finds are unparalleled across the Anglo-Saxon world.

As well as the acquisition, the project will also create a new Anglo-Saxon gallery in the Kirkleatham Museum. This will be home to an interpretation of Anglo-Saxon life in the area and of the Streethouse finds; a reconstruction of the burial bed and the newly acquired objects will take pride of place on display. Other elements of the project will include a touring exhibition, learning and outreach activity and volunteering opportunities, these will enable the collection to be seen and appreciated by local residents and visitors alike.

Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North East Ivor Crowther said:

“These rare finds are a spectacular insight into the lives of the people who lived in the region long ago. This is the only discovery of this kind and of this calibre in the North East and it is really important that we keep the pieces here for local residents and visitors to come and admire. The jewellery will provide an excellent learning tool and thrilling museum exhibition. By providing volunteering and work placement opportunities, the project provides tangible historical and archaeological skills that can be used for future job and learning possibilities. We are delighted to have been able to largely support this project and are excited to witness the development of the plans.”
These sorts of burials are extremely unusual with only 12 recorded in the country and none recorded in the North East making it hugely important for the heritage of the region and the country. The jewellery was discovered by archaeologist Steve Sherlock with the help of the Teesside Archaeological Society.

The pieces are of such high quality that it is widely believed to be a royal burial ground which adds to the wonderful story behind the jewels. The cemetery at Street House has five high status female graves and one sword burial, with the stunning finds thought to date from the second half of the seventh century (after AD 650). During this time the Northumbrian royal family was being established in and around the smaller areas of Bernicia, north of the Tees and Deira across Yorkshire.

Alan Pearce, Museums Curator for Kirkleatham Museum at Redcar said:

“I am absolutely delighted with this award which recognises the quality of the objects and the unique story of a princess and her royal bed burial in East Cleveland. We can now conserve and research the jewels and create a stunning exhibition to enable everyone to appreciate and get close to them. The exhibition will open before Easter 2011 and will include state of the art virtual touch technology and an exciting community outreach programme. I am enormously grateful to everyone who has contributed to this project to enable us to secure these very rare and precious finds for Kirkleatham museum."

No comments: