A rare piece of jewellery with possible links to St Edmund is to go on display at Moyse’s Hall Museum from this weekend.
The Edmund Jewel is an ornate gold jewel which might have been used by the king himself. It was discovered by someone metal detecting in a field in Drinkstone in 2014.
The jewel is believed to be an aestal, a 9th century pointer used by people in high status for reading at a time when the majority of people were illiterate.
Aestals themselves are believed to be extremely rare – there are thought to be fewer than 10 in Europe. The acquisition of the Edmund Jewel will offer greater chance of study and investigation into their purpose and production, while also highlighting the skilled craftsmanship of the 9th Century to museum visitors.
Alex McWhirter, Heritage Officer at Moyse’s Hall Museum, said: “We know the Edmund Jewel dates back to the ninth century, that Edmund was martyred in 869AD and – whether this was made before or after his death – that afterwards Bury St Edmunds became one of the largest Benedictine abbeys in the world and a main site for pilgrimage in England. “The site where the Edmund Jewel was found would have been part of the landholdings of the Abbey; land that some academics have suggested originally had connections to the king himself. The rarity of the jewel coupled with its purpose means it is likely that, if it did not belong to Edmund himself, it would have been made and used by someone in high status in the church.”
Councillor Joanna Rayner, cabinet member for leisure and culture at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “We know that, like us, our local residents are fiercely proud of our heritage in Bury. The Edmund Jewel is another part in this rich tapestry in our collective history that will help to provide an even greater focus on the saint’s story here at Moyse’s Hall Museum.”
The Edmund Jewel will go on display this weekend to coincide with the final weekend of the Lost Property exhibition. It will then move into the permanent displays.
The Edmund Jewel was secured for Moyse’s Hall thanks to £27,500 of funding from the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Headley Trust, James and Frieda Lund Trust, The Alfred Williams Charitable Trust, The Bury Society, Bury Heritage Guides, Friends of Moyse’s Hall and a private donor.