Leeds nostalgia: 100 spectacular objects at Royal Armouries as part of 20th anniversary celebrations

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The Royal Armouries is celebrating the success of an acclaimed special exhibition showcasing around 100 spectacular items from the remarkable Staffordshire Hoard collection which is due to close on October 2.

Since the exhibition opened in early May it has received over 50,000 visitors to view the remarkable items which have been on display for the first time to UK visitors outside the West Midlands, where the hoard was discovered in 2009. The hoard is the largest gold Anglo-Saxon hoard ever found and some of the objects have never been on show before.

The Warrior Treasures exhibition focuses on fittings from weapons which make up the majority of the collection. It tells the story of their discovery, providing a fascinating glimpse into the warrior culture of a period in Anglo-Saxon history. These fittings were stripped from swords and seaxes (single-edged knives), and are thought to represent the equipment of defeated armies from unknown battles during the first half of the seventh century. The fittings are intricately decorated with gold, silver and semiprecious gems, and represent the finest quality Anglo-Saxon craftsmanship.

The Staffordshire Hoard is considered to be one of the most outstanding Anglo-Saxon finds since the excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship-burial in Suffolk in 1939. The hoard was discovered in July 2009 and is made up of around 4,000 fragments weighing over 6 kg. The secrets of the hoard are still being uncovered through painstaking research, but most of the collection consists of fittings from weaponry.

Although fragmented, damaged and distorted, the hoard’s objects represent the possessions of an elite warrior class. Why it was buried, perhaps before c.675 AD is not certain. Significantly it was discovered close to a major routeway (Roman Watling Street), in what was the emerging Kingdom of Mercia. Warfare between England’s many competing regional kingdoms was frequent. The Staffordshire Hoard bears witness to this turbulent time in our history.

Also featured within the exhibition is the Wollaston Warrior group which is in the care of the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds. The items are Anglo-Saxon burial goods from the grave of an elite warrior probably from the late seventh century. The contents of the grave included an exceptionally rare helmet and a sword – denoting the high status of their owner.

Rachael Bevan, Events Manager at the Royal Armouries said “We have been amazed by the positive visitor feedback to the exhibition and our supporting events and education programme which has ranged from horse shows and combat demonstrations to jewellery-making. Our summer term Saxon themed education workshops were fully booked with many school visitors enjoying this rare glimpse into seventh century Anglo-Saxon warrior culture, exquisite craftsmanship and art. The education and events team have really enjoyed working with this wonderful exhibition which is very well worth a visit before it closes.”

The success of the Saxon themed school workshops has meant that the Royal Armouries will continue to offer them as a permanent feature of their education programme.

The treasure is owned by Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council and cared for on their behalf by Birmingham Museums Trust and The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. It is currently undergoing one of the UK’s largest archaeological research projects, conducted by Barbican Research Associates on behalf of the owners and Historic England, who fund the project.

Entry to the exhibition is FREE and further details of the exhibition and our education programme can be found at the Royal Armouries website at http://warrior-treasures.uk