Archeology Culture

Middleham Jewel: The Secret Past Of A 500-Year-Old Medieval Pendant

Middleham Jewel: Secret Past Of A 500-Year-Old Medieval Pendant

Have you heard or read of those tales which inculcate accidental discovery. The one unearthing a Middleham Jewel is every bit the same.

The tale

This tale dates back to the month of September 1985, when dealer Ted Seaton with his two enthusiasts was returning to his car at the dusk. This is when they heard the buzzing of their metal detector. They pursued the digging process with just a mere torchlight.

The dealer Ted Seaton later realized back home in Bernard Castle that he had made an amazing discovery! It was the discovery of a century old piece of gold jewelry.

Middleham Jewel: Secret Past Of A 500-Year-Old Medieval PendantPhoto:York Museums Trust

What followed?

There was held a treasure trove inquest at Thirsk. It was here, that the Coroner Peter Hatch gave the judgment of finders keepers. Thus, declaring the jewel lost or abandoned.

The pendant auction was held by Sotheby’s. The identity of the buyer was not revealed, however, the bidding closed at 1.43 million Euros within 4 minutes.

The money was shared amidst the 3 finders Mr. Seaton, Bill Wiggans, Paul Kingston along with the tenant farmer Edmund Tennant and landowner Lenora Peacock. In fact, there is a copy of the jewel on display in the parish church at Middleham presented by Mrs. Peacock.

Middleham Jewel: Secret Past Of A 500-Year-Old Medieval PendantPhoto:York Museums Trust

Where is the jewel right now?

In the year 1991, the owner (anonymous) of the jewel applied to take it aboard. However, his request was blocked twice with the hope by the Department of Trade and Industry to find a British buyer.

Interesting to know that the original Sotheby’s sale failed in finding a buyer. This, is when the Yorkshire Museum launched an appeal in order to raise the 2.5 million Euro needed to keep it. And, it indeed got possible with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, donation from American millionaire John Paul Getty Jr., the North Yorkshire County council, private individuals and the Richard III Society.

The jewel found its permanent abode in the Yorkshire Museum.

Middleham Jewel: Secret Past Of A 500-Year-Old Medieval PendantPhoto:York Museums Trust

The jewel

  • The jewel is the work of 15th century English Goldsmith.
  • The pendant is diamond shaped.
  • It is made of gold and has a single sapphire.
  • There are holes along the side of the jewel which is indicative of the fact that it was once decorated with pearls.
  • The front of the pendant is engraved with the Trinity giving a 3D effect.
  • The back part of the pendant has the Nativity, The lamb and image of 15 saints.
  • The pendant was hollow from inside and contained silk disc. The silk discs were embroidered with gold threads and some of earth.
  • There was also a Latin inscription carved on the pendant “Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi”.

Back in the Middle Ages the gold was only worn by the royal or high nobility, hence, there is a good probability that it belonged to a royal woman.

Middleham Jewel: Secret Past Of A 500-Year-Old Medieval PendantRichard III and his spouse Anne Neville

Richard III and his spouse, Anne Neville spent a lot of time together at Middleham. It is thus probable that post her demise in 1485, March, the jewel was buried in accordance with their wish. But, that is just a probability!

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