Museum trove tells how York once ruled the North

PIECE OF PAST: Andrew Woods, senior curator of archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, with a stained glass roundel.
PIECE OF PAST: Andrew Woods, senior curator of archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, with a stained glass roundel.
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A treasure trove of some of the finest medieval relics ever found in Britain is being brought together for the first time at one of Yorkshire’s leading museums.

Star objects including the Middleham Jewel, the Escrick Ring and a Boar Badge worn by a supporter of Richard III are to go on permanent display at the Yorkshire Museum in York to tell how the city once ruled the North of England.

The museum’s curator of archaeology, Natalie Buy, said: “From the fifth century, York was England’s second city and its fortunes rose and fall because of its ties to the Crown and the Church.

“For 1,000 years it was a cosmopolitan capital. Kings and Archbishops were based here, bringing wealth and power to the city which in turn brought international trade, monumental castles and not forgetting spectacular churches.

“Peace and prosperity helped establish the city as a place of culture, magnificent splendour and also a centre of learning. Despite the inevitable wars and rebellion, York remained a place of influence for more than 10 centuries and that’s what we really wanted to explore.

“Using some of the greatest medieval treasures ever found in the country, this new display will thematically tell the stories of medieval York alongside new discoveries which are helping us to gain a better understanding of what was life in the city and the influence it had both at home and abroad.”

Visitors will also have the opportunity to see the Cawood Sword, which is thought may have belonged to an Archbishop, and a hat made from Iranian silk which survived in the ground because of York’s waterlogged soil.

Ms Buy said: “Together these objects tell a story of the city as a place of power, art commerce, conflict and wealth and they span the Anglian, Viking, Norman and Medieval periods. The Middleham Jewel, for example, is a not only a beautiful pendant, but the finest piece of medieval gold-working ever found in England. It was discovered close to Middleham Castle and it may have belonged to King Richard III’s Queen, his mother-in-law Anne Beauchamp or his own mother, Cecily Neville.”

The Medieval York: Capital of the North display will be officially unveiled tomorrow and the objects will be complemented by the latest metal detector finds and brand new research.

Ms Buy said: “One of the most recent finds in the exhibits is a rare silver Tau pendant. Found near Selby, the pendant once held a religious relic and was thought to protect against a medieval sickness. Visitors also shouldn’t miss the Ryther Hoard. The 817 silver coins were found in 1992 in North Yorkshire, on land owned by Sir Robert Ryther in the 1480s.

“We don’t know how they got there, but in 1487, a plot was hatched to depose King Henry VII. The king himself entered York with 1,000 men to quash the rebellion and stamp his authority on the region. Amounting to over £6 (a huge sum at the time), the hoard may have been hidden in the face of this crisis, perhaps even by Sir Robert himself.”