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Exeter’s museum acquires rare Anglo-Saxon gold ring

The ring, which is beautifully decorated with cat-like intertwined creatures, was found by metal detectorists at Wembworthy, Mid-Devon in 2018.

Exeter City Council’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) is celebrating the acquisition of a late Anglo-Saxon period gold ring, thanks to funding from the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Headley Trust, Erin Cox Jewellery, Friends of RAMM, C James Cadbury CT, Julian Steer-Fowler and a further private donor.

The Wembworthy ring joins a small number of other pieces of Anglo-Saxon metalwork in RAMM’s collection. Anglo-Saxon material culture is a very rare find in Devon, and since 1970 only eighteen Anglo-Saxon metal finds have come into the museum. These finds were made by archaeologists and metal detectorists and include clothing fasteners, harness mounts, a ring, a sword scabbard mount and an enamel mount for a bowl or piece of furniture. The Wembworthy ring will now join these items on display.

The ring will be a significant addition to this collection and will go on permanent display in RAMM’s Making History gallery. It will feature in a display that illustrates the fascinating diversity of Anglo-Saxon culture in Devon, bringing together examples of the few personal metal objects that have been found by metal detectorists over the last 20 years.

The Wembworthy ring is a small piece of jewellery, which may have been made for a small woman or even a child, decorated with an intricate pattern of intertwined animals. RAMM will work with University of Exeter’s Digital Humanities Lab to create 3D scans and imaging of the ring, allowing the public to examine the decoration up close.

Richard Pocock, chair of the Friends of RAMM who donated towards the ring’s acquisition said: ‘The Friends of RAMM are delighted to contribute to the purchase of this beautiful and historic ring. Considering its age, it is in remarkable condition. The fact it was discovered in Devon adds to its importance with respect to local history. It will be an important addition to RAMM’s collection and we look forward to seeing it on display.’

Goldsmith Erin Cox, director of Erin Cox Jewellery in Topsham, also contributed towards the ring’s purchase. She said: ‘The Wembworthy ring caught my attention because of how absolutely beautiful it is. The story that it tells is a wonderfully human story that, as a maker, connects with me. I think it’s really important to save objects like this and keep them local to where they were found. That was my interest in this piece specifically – that it stays close to home.’

Cllr Laura Wright, Exeter City Council Deputy Leader and lead Councillor for Culture said: ‘We are grateful to the funders and donors that have made the acquisition of this very rare and beautiful piece of history possible. It’s fantastic that the ring will soon be on display at RAMM for the public to enjoy.’