Shropshire Star

Gold rush: Bronze Age gold ring, part of Roman amulet case and medieval ring all declared treasure

A coroner has concluded that three gold items found by different metal detectorists in the county are all treasure.

Last updated
Gold penannular ring. Picture: British Museum Portable Antiquities Service

A gold penannular ring dating from 1,300 and 1,100 BC has been described as “the latest incredible find of Bronze Age gold from north Shropshire, following the discovery of the Shropshire Sun Pendant in 2018”.

The metal detectorist finder of another of the items has described how he uncovered a gold ring dated from 600-700AD in perfect condition shimmering back at him in a farmer's field near Condover.

Craig Mackender, a heating engineer from near Bridgnorth, said: "I used to think it was a myth when they say that gold shines when you find it in the ground.

Treasure hunter Craig Mackender

"Gold really does come up shiny, as if it had been in the ground for a day."

Mr Mackender has been keenly metal detecting at weekends for about four years and on September 9, 2021 he had been out on the Sovereign group's metal detecting rally on a farmer's field. His detecting kit gave him a characteristic beep after about an hour.

"I have always been interested in history," he said. "The buzz when you find something unique is great.

"But don't believe the TV shows - most of the time you do not find anything.

"You can detect 100 Coke cans before finding that one thing."

Mr Mackender has been told that the ring had been part of the hilt of a sword and he thinks it might have been used as a ring on a finger.

Gold sword ring. Picture: British Museum Portable Antiquities Service

"It was in really good condition and is rare because these kind of finds are usually found in hoards."

Shropshire senior coroner John Ellery heard that the ring dated from between 600 and 700AD and was in a very good condition.

Sitting at Shirehall, in Shrewsbury, on Thursday, Mr Ellery was told that the find was similar to objects found in the famous Staffordshire Hoard and even the pre-war find at Sutton Hoo.

Being more than 10 per cent gold by weight and more than 300 years old it qualified as treasure and Mr Ellery formally concluded that it was. Its monetary value will be decided by a committee in London before it can be brought.

Mr Ellery also declared two other items to be treasure.

One, an incomplete Roman gold amulet case found by a metal detectorist in the Condover area on September 11, 2022, was discovered to be the lost half of an item that was found close by in 2019.

Incomplete amulet case. Picture: British Museum Portable Antiquities Service

The third treasure item was a gold penannular ring that was found by metal detectorist Tim Adams in the Prees area.

Shropshire Council has expressed interest in acquiring the artefacts and will be seeking funding so that they can be displayed at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

The gold penannular ring has been described as “the latest incredible find of Bronze Age gold from north Shropshire, following the discovery of the Shropshire Sun Pendant in 2018”.

Gold penannular ring. Picture: British Museum Portable Antiquities Service

Emma-Kate Lanyon, curator for Shropshire Council museums service, added: “Over the past 20 years a number of important finds of prehistoric goldwork have be made in North Shropshire. This ring is another clue, showing us that the people living in the area 3,000 years ago were part of a rich and sophisticated community.

“Although their use is uncertain, similar rings have been found decorating bracelets and other objects. These decorative rings are amongst the most common items of gold to survive from the British Bronze Age.”

Part of the amulet case is the second example found by metal detectorists in Shropshire, indicating that people from that area came here in the Roman period. It is most likely that they were soldiers in the Roman Army.

Emma-Kate Lanyon explained: “This little tube would have contained thin gold sheet, marked with an inscription and magical symbols. These amulets were worn as a protection charm in an area from modern day Slovakia down to northern Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

The precise purpose of the seventh century sword ring found by Mr Mackender is unclear and finds from the period are rare from the county, but a growing number of early medieval finds made by metal detectorists are starting to reveal glimpses of the areas Anglo-Saxons past.

Emma-Kate Lanyon said: “Finds like this are so important for building a better picture of this time. Shropshire was going through a period of really seismic change. It sat on the border between the British-controlled Welsh kingdoms and the Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

“The kingdoms of Britain were often in conflict. This created a society where maintaining the support of a warrior elite was crucial, as was building the right alliances. Deals were often done by exchanging lavish gifts. Sword hilt rings may have been gifted and displayed as a mark of such an oath.”

Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council cabinet member for culture and digital, said: “Finds like this show how people having been making Shropshire their home since the distant past. All three of these artefacts have a fascinating role in telling our county’s history.”

Fay Bailey, Shropshire Council museums and archives manager, said: “Hopefully we will be able to secure funding for these pieces to be acquired and displayed at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery."