In early 2017, the Oundle Museum purchased a medieval gold brooch from The British Museum. Because it was originally found near Benefield, and then declared a treasure, the Oundle Museum, as a local museum, was the first to be offered the brooch.
For a found historic item to be declared treasure, certain procedures need to be gone through. When anything comprised of precious metal is found by a metal detector, firstly it has to be taken to a local coroner. The coroner is the one who decides whether the item is treasure trove or not. After the local coroner’s declaration, it is taken to the British Museum, where it is examined, valued and recorded. After this, the item is usually first offered to a local museum for purchase. If the museum does not express an interest or is unable to cover the cost, the item can then be retained by the finder. Under the Treasure Act 1996, the finders and/or the landowners are rewarded with a share of the market value of the treasure. ‘The amount of the reward and how it is divided among the claimants is determined by the Treasure Valuation Committee.’
In the case of the medieval gold brooch, it was found with a metal detector on cultivated land near Benefield, approximately ten inches below the ground surface by Mr Neil Wyles. The item was examined and because it was determined to be more than 300 years old and composed of more than ten percent precious metal, the local coroner decided that it should be considered treasure under the terms of the Treasure Act.
The Oundle Museum was then offered the opportunity to purchase the brooch, and in January 2017, the Oundle Museum committee agreed that they would purchase it for the estimated market value of £2,700.
John Hadman, archaeologist and one of the trustees of the Oundle Museum Trust, said: ‘The brooch was such a locally important object that we decided to raid our reserve fund for it.’ They agreed to buy the brooch first and try and raise funds to cover the cost, afterwards.
The medieval gold brooch was collected from the landowner in mid-February just in time for the new season’s exhibition.
Because the Oundle Museum bought the item using its reserve funds, it is still in the process of fundraising. There have been several generous donations, including one from the Middle Nene Archaeological Group, but the museum is still seeking funds to cover the remaining balance.
By Emily Wang