Save the Willingale Treasure!
Epping Forest District Museum has launched an appeal to save a medieval gold ring found in the parish of Willingale before the item goes on sale on the open market.
It is the first medieval gem set ring to be found in the district, and the first known finger-ring to be discovered in the parish of Willingale. The decoration is of an extremely high standard and, to the best of our knowledge, unique.
In total £11,500 is needed to acquire the ring and purchase a secure display case to house it, ensuring the ring can be on free public display for generations to come. The campaign has already received support from the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and SHARE Museums East and Epping Forest District Museum has committed funding from its reserves leaving £3000 to be raised.
If the target’s reached the ring will go on public display in the museum’s newly renovated Core gallery, saving it for current and future residents to enjoy. The museum would also ensure the long term preservation of the ring making it widely available to the public through free exhibitions, inclusion in the school education programme, public talks as well as the ring being made available for loan and research.
If the funding is not raised, the ring may be sold on the open market and possibly leave the UK permanently.
About the ring
Recently unearthed by a metal detectorist the ring is thought to date from c.1200-1399 based on stylistic similarities with other rings of this date. The method of manufacture is typical of the period, but is a particularly fine example of application and techniques.
This very well preserved example of a medieval sapphire set finger ring would have been worn by a wealthy medieval nobleman. The maker of this item is unknown – there are no identification marks. However the craftsmanship of the piece demonstrates great skill and technical ability, from which it is possible to infer that the goldsmith responsible was highly accomplished in their craft.
Jewellery at this time was increasingly used to signify rank, especially after the passing of the 1363 Acts of Apparel, which restricted the wearing of jewellery, especially that containing precious metal or gemstones to the highest and wealthiest social classes.
Goldsmiths were always highly regarded, but as gold became more easily available, and people wealthier, trade flourished and they prospered during the 14th Century. This ring would allow this topic to be explored in more detail than the museum’s current collections allow.
Gemstones were thought to possess magical and medicinal powers in the medieval period - sapphires supposedly protecting chastity and uncovering deception, in addition to treating eye-ailments and hysteria, providing another area of investigation that would be enabled by the acquisition of this ring.
About Epping Forest District Museum
Epping Forest District Museum’s remit is to tell the human history of the Epping Forest District and is the only museum in the district that covers archaeology and social history acting as the archaeological depository for the area.
The museum holds a significant medieval collection, which is related to or was excavated from the Abbey of Waltham, including a 12th Century bible. Other secular examples of medieval precious metal at the museum are coin hoards; this would balance our interpretation, demonstrating the aesthetic appeal of gold and its more obvious financial uses.
The collection also includes some costume accessories; this would be a valued addition to show jewellery of the medieval period, and the changes of fashion in precious metals and gem-cutting.
The ring will serve as a resource for the museum’s education programme, showing the themes of metalworking including: development of decorative styles and manufacturing techniques; wealth, power and status; craft guilds and companies; and fashion.
This will serve to spark interest in new areas of history and attract new audiences to the museum as well as giving the museum the opportunity to engage with colleagues and institutions on regional and national levels, increasing the profile of the district and the service.
To make a donation towards Epping Forest District Museum’s campaign please visit www.spacehive.com/willingaletreasure
If you would like to know more about our campaign please get in touch with the team at the museum on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01992 716882.
Epping Forest District Museum
39-41 Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 1EL
Opening times: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10am – 4pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm
Twitter: @EFDMuseum Facebook: facebook.com/EFDMuseum