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Decorated Tudor ring found in Shropshire declared treasure

By Jonny Drury | St Martins | News | Published:

A gold signet ring dating back to before 1550 AD found on land in North Shropshire has been declared treasure.

Picture from the British Portable Antiques Scheme

Two men discovered a late medieval gold signet ring in St Martin's, near Oswestry on June 23, 2017, and the item went before Shropshire Coroner John Ellery on Thursday to determine whether it was treasure.

The inquest heard how the discovery was first reported to Dr Susie White of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, before the coroner was made aware of it.

Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire, Peter Reavill read a report and stated the ring was found in 'stunning condition' in a ploughed field.

In his report he stated: "The form of the ring fits with examples dated to the period AD 1350-1550 – many of which bear religious iconographic designs.

"They fall out of fashion at the reformation and are rarely seen or constructed after AD 1550. This example is very large and robust weighing almost 16 grams.

"The bezel (centre) of the ring depicts a medieval windmill known as a post-mill as it sits on three substantial legs. The design is well cut and would have acted as a personal seal matrix for impressing into wax to close or authenticate documents.

"The sides of the ring are further decorated with religious images of St Christopher and John the Baptist. Inside the ring (on the reverse of the bezel) is the depiction of the Virgin Mary with the body of Christ in her arms.

"This hidden symbol would have been invisible when worn and would have been in direct contact with the finger of the ring’s owner. Each image is believed to protect the wearer.

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"In this example the use of St Christopher would have protected the wearer from sudden death, being the patron saint of travellers. "

Mr Reavill also said the design on the ring is unusual and rare, and has a direct relevance that could refer to Saint Victor of Marseille who was venerated in the Roman Catholic church as the patron of cabinetmakers, millers and sick children.

He added: "This is an exciting find and is from around the time of Owain Glyndwr and would have been part of the national revolt that involved the likes of Oswestry and Ruthin.

"It would most probably have been worn over a glove by a male, and would have been a thing of power."

Mr Ellery found that it qualified as treasure as it is more than 300 years old and more than 10 per cent gold.

The British Museum is now hoping to acquire and display the find.

Jonny Drury

By Jonny Drury
@JonnyDrury_Star

Senior reporter covering Oswestry and Mid Wales.

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