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Norfolk treasure named Britain’s favourite new museum artefact

PUBLISHED: 11:49 18 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:05 18 December 2018

The Anglo-Saxon pendant and other finds from the Winfarthing grave assemblage. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

The Anglo-Saxon pendant and other finds from the Winfarthing grave assemblage. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

Norfolk Museums Service

An Anglo-Saxon gold treasure unearthed by a student while metal-detecting in Norfolk has been named the UK’s museum acquisition of the year in a national poll.

Archaeology student Tom Lucking discovered the Winfarthing Pendant while pursuing his hobby of metal-detecting. Picture: Antony KellyArchaeology student Tom Lucking discovered the Winfarthing Pendant while pursuing his hobby of metal-detecting. Picture: Antony Kelly

Norfolk Museums Service’s Winfarthing Pendant has been named as the winner of Britain’s favourite work of art acquired for a museum with Art Fund support in 2018.

A public poll saw more than 5,000 people vote for their favourite. The nationally-significant Anglo-Saxon gold treasure, was found by archaeology student Tom Lucking while metal-detecting at Winfarthing, near Diss, in December 2014.

Recognising he had discovered an undisturbed grave, he left the burial intact until it could be excavated by archaeologists from Norfolk County Council’s Find Identification and Recording Service, based at Gressenhall.

A treasure emerges: the stunning Anglo-Saxon pendant emerges from the Norfolk mud at Winfarthing. Picture: Tom LuckingA treasure emerges: the stunning Anglo-Saxon pendant emerges from the Norfolk mud at Winfarthing. Picture: Tom Lucking

Excavation showed the grave to have contained an aristocratic Anglo-Saxon lady who died between about AD 650-675.

The beautiful gold and garnet pendant, inlaid with hundreds of tiny cloisonné-set garnets forming sinuous interlacing beasts and geometrical shapes, was saved for the nation earlier this year following a fundraising appeal by Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery.

The pendant was voted the nation’s favourite acquisition of the year from a shortlist of 10 works of art and objects that Art Fund helped UK museums to buy in 2018.

The Winfarthing Pendant that has been named the UK's favourite new museum artwork in a national poll. Picture: Norfolk Museums ServiceThe Winfarthing Pendant that has been named the UK's favourite new museum artwork in a national poll. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

Dr Tim Pestell, senior curator of archaeology at Norfolk Museums Service, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that the Winfarthing Pendant has been named as Britain’s favourite work of art in Art Fund’s annual poll, especially so given the quality of this year’s shortlist which contained some truly remarkable works.

“It’s intriguing to think what the pendant’s seventh-century creator would make of the lasting appeal of their masterpiece, well over a millennium after it was first crafted.”

Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s communities committee, said: “This is fantastic news and proves once again that the objects in our Museums Service have national-level appeal. We’re grateful to the organisations who helped save this incredible object for the people of Norfolk, namely Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of the Norwich Museums.”

A measure of the pendant’s beauty and archaeological importance is that it is currently on display in the British Library’s major exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms until February 19. It will go back on display at Norwich Castle on its return next spring.

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