Buxton Museum was honoured to receive a commendation at the 9th Derbyshire Heritage Awards last week. The new Kirk Ireton Hoard exhibit was awarded Highly Commended in the category Behind the Scenes at the Museum. The winner was a project at Bakewell Old House Museum called The Carpet Beetle Challenge. Well done, Bakewell!
Attending an evening of celebrations at Sir Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills last Friday was Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood, previous Assistant Manager Martha Lawrence and the local artist who created the innovative new exhibit, David Tucker.
The Awards are run by the Derbyshire Museums and Heritage Forum and celebrate the work taking place in museums, historic houses and heritage sites across the county. You can see the Kirk Ireton Hoard exhibit for yourself at Buxton Museum. Entry is free and you can plan your visit using our website.
January’s Curiosity has been chosen by Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood:
I am sure we have all thrown pennies into a fountain? Curious to think that people have been doing this for over 2,000 years.
Back in 1979 the Mineral Baths in Buxton were restored. A hoard of coins was found there, you might say, blocking the plughole. These 215 mostly low denomination coins cover 300 years of Roman history and along with four bracelets, are on show in the Museum.
But there were more, and a second part of this hoard was acquired more recently. This contained even more Roman coins and other things too. There were several fine pins long with bulbous heads, two coiled finger rings, a part of a buckle and this month’s curiosity: a hoop of metal, the sides slightly slanted in and decorated with impressions of dots all around.
If you sew, you will immediately recognise this as a thimble – not a full finger one, but a hoop thimble. If you sew, this is an important tool to help push a needle through cloth, protecting the skin of your finger from being abraded by the sharp needle top. This hoop one will have protected the side of the sewer’s finger, and made sure that the finger did not bleed from regular stabbing and making the skin get rough. Sewers usually have a favourite thimble, the one that fits best. Parting with such a favoured tool is a wrench!
So why put this into the fountain?
If we look at the whole groups of objects, not just the coins, they suggest a group of things owned by women. Buxton’s mineral waters were renowned even in Roman times for their curative powers. So did women come here, offering gifts and asking the local goddess Arnemetia to help them? How great an offering would be needed – your precious fine pins, your jewellery, even an essential thimble – would any or all of these ease her troubles?
The hoard consists of 26 coins, mostly Late Iron Age but including three Roman coins which pre-date the invasion of Britain in AD 43. It is believed to be the first time coins of these two origins are thought to have been found buried together in a cave in Britain. It is also unusual to find Late Iron Age gold coins. A Roman brooch was found alongside.
The find was particularly exciting for us at Buxton Museum because we already have the objects and animal bones that were found during the 1959 excavation by the City of Stoke Archaeological Society at the site. This excavation only covered a small area of the cave so it’s quite possible that they just missed out on discovering the coins.
We don’t have a lot of Iron Age material in our collections and even less on display, so we are very pleased that the National Trust are generously loaning the coins and brooch to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery for long term display.
We plan to put the items on show from October 2014 in one of our existing high-security cases. We’re continuing to work on plans to make the collections more accessible, including redeveloping our Wonders of the Peak gallery, and we intend to include the hoard within the new permanent displays. It will also be an opportunity to show material from the recent fieldwork at the Iron Age hillfort Fin Cop, which has been deposited at the museum.