King Alfred 'The Great'
A line engraving c.1750 by George Vertue
In the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford there is a very special Anglo Saxon treasure approximately 1150 years old - the Alfred Jewel. It was discovered in 1693 by a labourer digging for peat at Newton Park in North Petherton, Somerset. North Petherton is near Athelney, where in 878 King Alfred the Great took refuge from the Vikings and later founded a monastery.
Sir Thomas Wrothe, owner of Newton Park, became the owner of the jewel. He later presented it to his uncle, Colonel Nathaniel Palmer, a former member of Trinity College, Oxford, who bequeathed it to the university in 1717. He intended that it should go to the Bodleian Library, but a year later his son Thomas, decided that it should be deposited in the Ashmolean Museum.
The Alfred Jewel
The Alfred jewel is made of polished rock crystal. Below the crystal and crafted in cloisonné is a figure thought to represent one of the five senses 'sight'. The crystal is set in pure filigree gold, and has cut out lettering around the edge inscribed AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN - Alfred ordered me made.
Recent opinions have decided that it is an aestel or pointer used for following the text in a manuscript or gospel. The pointer would have been held within the mouth of the mythical dragon probably made of ivory, and kept in place by a rivet which is still in situ.
King Alfred and his daughter Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians depicted on a 13th century genealogical chronicle in the British Library, London
British Treasure No.1 can be found here.
Over the Christmas period a group of amateur treasure hunters found
a hoard of more than 5,000 rare Anglo Saxon coins showing the heads of
King Ethelred 'The Unready' and King Canute. They are thought to have a
value of over one million pounds. The coins have been described as being in
mint condition with a 'mirror like' finish. They were found buried in a lead
container in a field in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. This is one of several
large and exciting treasure trove finds that have been made during 2014.