The Staffordshire (Ogley Hay) Hoard: Recovery of a Treasure

By Leahy, Kevin; Bland, Roger et al. | Antiquity, March 2011 | Go to article overview

The Staffordshire (Ogley Hay) Hoard: Recovery of a Treasure


Leahy, Kevin, Bland, Roger, Hooke, Della, Jones, Alex, Okasha, Elisabeth, Antiquity


Discovery

Roger Bland & Kevin Leahy

The Staffordshire (Ogley Hay) hoard was found on the 5-10 July 2009 by Mr Terry Herbert while metal-detecting on arable land at a site in south Staffordshire in the English Midlands (Figure 1). Mr Herbert contacted Duncan Slarke, the Portable Antiquities Scheme's Finds Liaison Officer for Staffordshire and the West Midlands, who visited the finder at his home and prepared an initial list of 244 bags of finds. These were then taken to Birmingham Museum and HM Coroner was informed. Duncan Slarke also contacted the relevant archaeological authorities including English Heritage, the Staffordshire Historic Environment Record, the Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Portable Antiquities & Treasure Department at the British Museum. A meeting was held in Birmingham on 21 July at which it was agreed that the controlled recovery of the remaining objects of the hoard and an archaeological investigation of the findspot was a priority. It was also agreed that one of the Portable Antiquities Scheme's National Advisors, Dr Kevin Leahy, should compile a hand-list of finds in preparation for the Coroner's Inquest.

On 22 July archaeologists from Staffordshire County Council visited the site in the company of Duncan Slarke and Mr Herbert. A further 24 objects were recovered and their positions plotted on the following day. With the permission of the landowner and the active co-operation of Mr Herbert and funding from English Heritage and Staffordshire County Council, an excavation was undertaken by a small team from Birmingham Archaeology between 24 July and the 21 August. This work resulted in the discovery of a further 571 bagged finds.

Mr Herbert also recovered 56 small blocks of earth or clay that gave a response to the metal detector, varying in weight from 1-99g. An X-ray examination of these blocks proved useful and gave some indication of what they contained. There was a lot of broken sheet metal, some of which could be identified as sword hilt plates, and rivets from hilts could also be seen. Fragments of reeded strip were present and it could be seen that some of the other fragments were decorated with filigree. At least one object was decorated with cloisonne garnets. The state of the material was curious; although the fragments were crumpled they remained discrete, suggesting they may have been loosely packed in a bag, which decomposed and was infilled with earth.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

At this point, the hand-list contained 1381 records (37 of which were recent and not part of the hoard), attributed as follows:

Mr Herbert (original discovery and subsequent finds)    537 items
Staffordshire County Council                            37 items
Birmingham Archaeology                                  807 items

Following the inquest in September 2009, additional work was carried out, enhancing and consolidating the record. At the time of the inquest the hand-list recorded more than 1300 objects with a total mass of more than 5.0kg of gold and more than 1.3kg of silver. The catalogue now (November 2010) contains more than 3490 (1) pieces with masses of 5.094kg of gold and 1.442kg of silver. These figures include garnets and some earth, but will be broadly correct.

The Treasure Valuation Committee (TVC) met at the British Museum on 25 November 2009 to discuss the valuation, on which occasion the committee of independent advisors deemed the Treasure to be worth 3.285 million [pounds sterling], to be split equally between the finder (Mr Terry Herbert) and the landowner (Mr Fred Johnson).

The Chairman of the TVC, Professor Norman Palmer CBE said:

'The task of valuing this hoard required the Treasure Valuation Committee to analyse a very large amount of infarmation in order to arrive at a fair market price, and I am personally indebted to my fellow members whose energy and expertise made this result possible in so short a time.

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