The Severn Stoke 9thC Saxon Silver Coin Hoard

Saxon penny

This penny in the Worcestershire County museum collection comes from a hoard of 18 Saxon silver pennies found near Severn Stoke, Worcestershire.

Twelve of the coins were struck for King Burgred of West Mercia (reigned 852-874) and bear his name and image, as this one pictured. The other coins were struck for three kings of Wessex – Aethelwulf, Aethelberht and Aethelred l.

In 854 Burgred had transferred land at Hartlebury to the Bishop of Worcester, Aelhun. This land is now the site of Hartlebury Castle and home to Worcestershire County Museum. The hoard was probably buried in 868 AD. This may be a sign of settlements along the River Severn being concerned about possible Viking attacks.

Thanks to David Kendrick for the research for this object.

Robert Sterne Tighe and His Daughter Catherine (1790) by John Downman

Web Tighe and his Daughter (c) Museums WorcestershireJohn Downman was one of the most popular watercolour portraitists of the late 18th century, and this charming depiction of Robert Sterne Tighe and His Daughter Catherine (1790) is part of Worcester City’s museum collection.

Robert-Sterne Tighe was an Irish, pro-Catholic pamphleteer from Mitchelstown, remembered for running as a candidate for the Catholic Party in 1812, as well as being ‘very fond of making speeches’!

This painting shows us a more private moment in the life of a public man. Downman’s delicate use of watercolour, pencil and chalk captures a proud, affectionate moment of a father in his Chippendale armchair with his only daughter, named after his wife Catherine, nestled in the crook of his arm.

Although some of the colours have changed with time, the tenderness of the father-daughter relationship permeates this originally oval portrait, Catherine’s cheeks still shining rosily after 200 years. Sadly, this work can rarely be displayed in order to limit the damage that watercolours suffer from exposure to light.

Queen Elizabeth I in Worcestershire, 1575

web 1575 coin (c) Museums WorcestershireThis silver sixpence minted in 1575 from the Worcestershire County collection links to a significant royal visit that year to Worcestershire. Queen Elizabeth I arrived at Hartlebury on 12th August 1575 as part of her progress around the country. Bishop Bullingham made a garden walk in the grounds of Hartlebury Castle especially for her visit.

The following day the Queen moved on to Worcester, where orders had been given to the inhabitants of Worcester to white-lime and colour their houses. She dined at Hindlip and hunted at Hallow and supposedly during her visit she saw a black pear tree and directed that three black pears be added to Worcester’s coat of arms (which are still present today). Altogether it became an expensive visit for her hosts: the townspeople presented the Queen with a gift of a cup containing £40 in sovereigns, and the Dean of the Cathedral presented her with a purse of crimson velvet containing £20 (about a year’s salary for a Vicar).

Pierced Porcelain by George Owen (1845-1917)

Owen hand vaseGeorge Owen became an expert for Royal Worcester Porcelain with his designs of pierced, or reticulated, porcelain.

Reticulated decoration originated in China – the ceramics usually have a double wall with the outside one pierced in a decorative lace design to show through to the inner coloured wall beneath. The piercing takes place before firing so the technique requires enormous skill to ensure the piece remains stable throughout the making process.

By the mid-19th century, the designs were popular with English collectors. Owen worked to perfect the process and his work is unique in its quality. He always worked alone so no one else ever knew how he made supported such delicate work and no other craftsman before or since has been able to match his skill. Owen was rare among the best porcelain makers as he was not paid a weekly wage. All his work was made for special orders, each of which were very expensive pieces.

A small number of works by George Owen were donated to the city museum in 1957 by his son.

There are also some particularly fine examples of George Owen’s work at the Museum of Royal Worcester.

Fourteenth Century Gold Brooch, from Eldersfield

Eldersfield Brooch

This piece of treasure from the Worcestershire County museum collection is a small brooch with its original tapering pin. The brooch is of triangular section quartered by four evenly spaced quatrefoils in the form of bows or butterflies. One is split to house the pin.

Between each quatrefoil there are four letters, two on each of the sloping faces of the brooch. The letters seem to be V and an A repeated six times followed by an I and an O twice. One interpretation of the letters is that they may have had magical significance. Another is that this is an amatory piece – a lovers’ token – and that the six-times repeated letters are the loved one’s initials; the twice repeated letters those of the lover.

Thank you to David Kendrick for his research on this object.

Mary J Newill (1860-1947), Bromsgrove Guild Designer

Design for Garden of Adonis from Spencers Fairie Queen Bromsgrove GuildMary Jane Newill (who signed her work Mary J. Newill) studied at Birmingham School of Art. She went on to teach needlework there between 1892 and 1919, with a brief period at the turn of the century spent in Florence studying tempera painting.

She worked as a painter, illustrator, embroiderer and stained glass designer. By 1906 Newill had her own studio in Great Western Buildings, Livery Street in Birmingham. She was a member of the Birmingham Group, the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and a designer for the Bromsgrove Guild.

Most of Newill’s work was commissioned and purchased for domestic homes and so little is held in public collections. Two examples of her work that can be publicly seen are a stained glass window in the lady chapel of St. Mary and St. Ambrose Church in Edgbaston (1906), and one in the north side of the nave of Wrockwardine Church in Shropshire.

Worcestershire County museum collection includes this beautiful hanging, The Garden of Adonis, which was commissioned for the architect E Butler’s home in Sutton Coldfield. It pictures a scene from Spenser’s Faerie Queene and it hung below a painted frieze from Ivanhoe by Fred Davis.

Crouch and Butler

Garden of Adonis embroidery by Mary Newill Dining Room Mr Butler Sutton ColdfieldCrouch and Butler were a firm of architects based in Birmingham and both partners built themselves fabulous Elizabethan-revival Arts and Crafts houses full of decorative commissions. Birmingham was a fertile place for the Arts and Crafts movement of design, with many of the most famous proponents of the style such as William Morris, John Ruskin and Edward Burne-Jones having a Birmingham link.

Crouch and Butler had a close relationship with the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts which was formed in 1898 by Walter Gilbert. They designed the original Guild premises on Station Street in Bromsgrove and many of the Guild’s early commissions came through the two architects who were clearly passionate about the Guild member’s work.

The Pitman Chambers building on Corporation Street, Birmingham is one of the few remaining Crouch and Butler buildings where the love for Arts and Crafts decoration can be clearly seen. Just above the shop windows runs a terracotta frieze designed by Benjamin Creswick. Creswick taught modelling at the Birmingham School of Art and was mentor to many of the Bromsgrove Guild founders, including Walter Gilbert.

A Bronze Age Sword from the River Severn at Worcester

This Bronze Age leaf-shaped sword was discovered in Worcester in 1902 whilst dredging the River Severn.

It was originally thought to be Roman and is often described as such in early museum records and catalogues. It measures 588mm in length and at its maximum the blade measures 43mm in width. The end of the tang is broken. Worcester City Museum acquired the sword in 1906.

Other Bronze Age metalwork has also been discovered following dredging along the river at Worcester. A socketed bronze palstave axe was discovered in 1840 and a spearhead in 1844. The placing of, often broken, metalwork into watery and marshy places in the Bronze Age is well known and is considered to have votive significance. It’s possible that these metalwork depositions could be seen as part of that tradition.

Other Bronze Age metalwork finds from the city include socketed bronze axes from the Gas Works at Tolladine Road and from the base of Castle Hill (which was excavated in the 1820s).

A second Bronze Age sword is also known from Worcestershire. It was found at Broadway and is currently in the collections of the British Museum.

Archenfield Archaeology ltd, 58 42-52 Diglis Road, Worcester: desk-based archaeological and buildings assessment

Dinn, J. An outline resource assessment and research framework for the archaeology of Worcester. Worcester City Council, 2007

Smith, C.N.S. A Catalogue of the Prehistoric Finds From Worcestershire in Transactions of Worcestershire Archaeological Society Volume 34, 1957

Burrow’s Pointer Guide Map of Worcester

img160In 1901, Edward J Burrow decided to turn his hobby of art and travel into a business, founding the company Ed. J. Burrows & Co. He started by having his illustrations reproduced onto postcards and books and this lasted for only three years before Burrow turned his eye to other things.

In 1904 the company produced a guide to Cheltenham and the first ‘Burrow’s Guide’ was born.

By the 1930s Burrow Guides were available in over 500 different destinations from Worcester to Sicily, most of which were published on behalf of local authorities. Guides like the hardback guide to The City of London were first produced in the 1920s but updated through the next forty years, making them relevant and accurate at all times.

Ed. J. Burrows & Co also developed the Burrow’s Pointer Maps, these were mostly aimed at travellers with limited to no knowledge of the area and were almost as famous and used as the pocket guides. These Pointer Maps covered hundreds of towns and cities throughout the country, including Worcester.

By the time Burrow died in 1935, his guides had reached widespread recognition and his legacy has carried on even to this day, where his company – although changed considerably – still lives on.

This copy of Burrow’s Pointer Guide map of Worcester is in Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum’s collection.

By Bethany Jane Collins.

Pliohippus: horse ancestor from 10 million years ago

This post was researched by placement Caitlin Jolly, using Worcester City Museum exhibition files.


The Pliohippus lived on open plains, grazing on hard grasses with its long teeth. It had one functional toe on each foot.

Pliohippus means “bigger horse” and the name is also meant to mean “horse of the Pliocene” (the Pliocene is the geological period between 2 and 5 million years ago) although it’s now thought that the Pliohippus lived in an earlier geological epoch.

The Pliohippus skeleton shares many similarities with modern horse skeletons – aside from deep indentations in the skull just below the eye sockets. Scientists have hypothesised that this was used to hold muscle or to produce noises which modern horses cannot.

Worcester City Museum looks after a geological collection of around 12,000 specimens across all geological periods. The museum first started collecting and displaying fossils in 1833.