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Silver Roman brooch discovered near Wem is declared treasure

A silver Roman brooch which was discovered by a metal detectorist near Wem has been declared treasure.

The Roman brooch was discovered near Wem in December 2017. Photo: National Museum Wales
The Roman brooch was discovered near Wem in December 2017. Photo: National Museum Wales / CC BY 2.0

The brooch was declared treasure by HM Coroner for Shropshire, John Ellery, who held a Treasure inquest at Shrewsbury Coroner’s Court yesterday.

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The discovery was reported through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme having been found on cultivated land near Wem in December 2017.

Uses and Design

The brooch which is dated to the late 1st and early 2nd centuries (AD 80-140) is described as being T-shaped with semi-circular wings that hold a recessed spring. A pin would have been held by a clasp at the foot and worked in many ways like a simple safety pin.

Brooches were used to hold layers of garments / cloth together and are often found on the shoulders or chest – sometimes in pairs. The head of the brooch rises up from the wings and tapers downwards forming the bow which is broken just below the mid-point. The bow is decorated with a moulded band comprising three raised parallel lines, the central one of which has wavy edges, running the full surviving length of the bow. On either side of this central band are moulded ovals arranged in a zig-zag pattern. The brooch has a dark grey, slightly shiny, patina.

British Museum Analysis

The brooch has undergone non-destructive analysis at the British Museum which has confirmed that it is made of an alloy of silver (40-42%), copper, tin, lead and zinc. In size it is small being just 31mm length and 24.5mm width; it weighs just 18 grams.

Only two silver brooches of this type have been found previously in Shropshire at Albrighton and Cleobury Mortimer.

The coroner declared the find treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act as it was more than 300 years old when found and its alloy was more than 10% precious metal.

Whilst silver brooches of this form are very rare, similar examples formed of cast copper alloy / bronze are relatively common with many metal detectorists finding examples each year. In fact, so many of this type of brooch has been recorded from the West Midlands area that the Council for British Archaeology for the West Midlands gave a research grant to the Portable Antiquities Scheme to look at them in more detail. This research looked at more than 900 brooches from the area and identified that they were most likely to have been made in the Severn valley and represent a specific local form which suited the local population.

Brooch could go on display in Shrewsbury

Shropshire Museums have expressed an interest in acquiring the find for the people of the county – with the hope that it will be displayed in the Roman gallery at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery at the Music Hall.

Should the brooch be acquired it will join other Roman treasures already on display – including the Wroxeter mirror and the Shrewsbury hoard of 9,300 coins.

Now the find has been officially declared treasure – it will be valued by the Governments Treasure Valuation Committee and the museum will be given a period of grace to raise the relevant funds. These monies will be paid to both the finder and landowner as a reward under the Treasure Act (1996).

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