Shropshire Star

Gold and silver treasures unearthed in Shropshire show evidence of Roman soldier and wealthy hunters

"Fascinating" gold and silver treasures dating back hundreds of years have been unearthed in the fields of Shropshire.

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The golden Roman amulet case

The precious items, which were found in Whitchurch, Pontesbury and Stoke-on-Tern, provide evidence of Roman soldiers stationed in the county, and wealthy hunters in the Tudor and Stuart times.

Among the treasures are a complete silver whistle dating to the post medieval period (1600-1700 AD) and found in the Whitchurch rural area, a complete silver verval dating from 1600-1720 AD and a silver dress hook dating from 1500-1600 AD, which were both uncovered in Stoke-on-Tern, and a Roman gold amulet case dating to the period 200-400 AD which was found in Pontesbury.

The silver whistle

The items were found by metal detectors with the landowners' permission and reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Usually, when museums purchase finds, half the money goes to the finder and half to the landowner.

At Tuesday's treasure inquests at Shirehall in Shrewsbury, John Ellery, senior coroner for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, declared all four items to be treasure, as they are at least 10 per cent precious metal and more than 300 years old.

Emma-Kate Lanyon, curator for Shropshire Council’s museum and archives service, said: “Whistles like this example are thought to have been used for hunting with dogs or hawks, and vervals were worn on a falcon’s leg to identify its owner, a bit like a dog tag, and these two objects nicely sum up the importance of hunting as a pastime for the wealthy in Tudor and Stuart times.

The silver dress hook

“Dress hooks were used to fasten outer garments or to drape up skirts, either to keep them above the muddy streets or to show off the rich fabric of the underskirt. They are often made of precious silver and silver-gilt and are highly decorative.

"Documentary evidence suggests that dress hooks were often owned in pairs, as records exist of them being gifted wills and listed in personal inventories. I imagine whoever lost this one was upset – it’s a really lovely example.”

She added: “The Roman gold amulet case is the third example to have been discovered in Shropshire. Although nationally a rare find, this example from Pontesbury follows earlier discoveries at Condover and Eaton Constantine.

The silver verval

“This is clear evidence that the Roman troops stationed in Shropshire, included a group of soldiers recruited from Pannonia, a Roman province situated where western Hungary is today. It is fascinating to imagine these men, far from home, wearing this personal reminder of the native culture, homeland and family.”

Shropshire Council will be applying for grant aid to try to acquire the items for its museum displays and keep them in the public domain.

Robert Macey, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for culture and digital, said: “These are just the most recent objects to illustrate the rich history of the county. Acquiring them will help us share Shropshire’s unique history with our visitors.”