Rare finds from Courteenhall on display in local libraries

25th Jan 2024

A rare snake head silver bracelet that dates back to Roman times is now on display to the public.

The Roman find was discovered by metal detectorist Phil Craddock on land belonging to the Courteenhall Estate. It is just one of a number of historic finds that have been discovered by metal detectorists on the Estate over the years.

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery, which now owns the bracelet after it was declared treasure, has included it in a new temporary exhibition which is touring around four libraries.

Visitors to Towcester Library can see the bracelet on display between now and the end of January when it will then move to Brackley Library, before moving to the two other local libraries.

Dating to between 50-200AD, the bracelet may have been worn for protection against evil, or simply for fashion. To the Romans, snakes symbolised healing, fertility and immortality because they shed their skin.

The exhibition, titled ‘Unearthed: portable antiquities scheme finds from across Northamptonshire’, is the first exhibition to be displayed in new display cases the museum has installed in four libraries across Northamptonshire: Brackley, Towcester, Daventry, and Weston Favell.

The exhibition is split into four time periods: Bronze Age, Roman, Medieval, and Post Medieval, displayed in each library respectively. The exhibition will be on display for four months, and each month the content will rotate between the four library sites.

An Iron Age socketed axe head found on Courteenhall land found by metal detectorist Phil Douglas is also on display in the Bronze Age section of the exhibition, currently in Brackley library until the end of January.

Fewer than 30 iron axes have been found in Britain. This rare axe-head is made from iron casted in the same way as bronze, likely as an early experiment in how newly discovered iron could be used.

Many of the objects on display were found by metal detectorists and acquired by the museum through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).

The Scheme, run by the British Museum, encourages finders to report their finds so that everyone can benefit from the knowledge these objects unlock.

The British Museum also oversees the administration of the Treasure Act 1996 which defines which objects are classified as treasure and legally obliges the finder to report their find.

The exhibition showcases objects purchased by and donated to Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, some of which have never before been on display.



History Curator Jill Birrell said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for people to visit their local library to see traces of life in Northamptonshire from hundreds and thousands of years ago.”

Dr Johnny Wake, Managing Partner at Courteenhall, said: “It’s great that some of the historic finds that metal detectorists have made on the Estate are now on view for free to the public.”

Phil, 52, a train driver for London Northwestern Railway, said: “Finding the silver snake head bracelet was a special moment. When you wipe away the soil and realise that you’ve found something that hasn’t been seen for thousands of years it’s a fantastic feeling.”

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