West Row councillor says museum could pave way to Mildenhall Treasure being named
West Row Parish Council is to consider building the village’s first museum, which proponents hope will boost their case for renaming the disputed ‘Mildenhall Treasure’.
Council member John Smith has led calls for the Roman silverwear to be renamed ‘West Row Treasure’ to reflect its discovery in the village in the 1940s – and has stepped up the campaign since the council became independent of Mildenhall last year.
The treasure is thought to date back to the fourth century and is exhibited in the British Museum.
Mr Smith told the Bury Free Press this week that creation of a village museum, alongside the local discovery of Roman villas, could force the British Museum’s hand.
“The British Museum has a line and they are sticking to it,” he said. “But there are treasures all over the country that are named after the settlement they are found, rather than the nearest council (which is what happened in this case).
“There have been so many developments, including the find of the Roman villas, and there is a significant Roman settlement in West Row. And I think there is potential for a museum on the site.”
Mr Smith’s idea would be for the attraction’s walls to be built close to or around the ancient site – allowing visitors to walk around it. The plan is a long way from being agreed and has not yet been heard before the council – but Mr Smith is considering it.
He added: “We are not going to have the treasure back, but this could boost the appeal of West Row as a village of Roman history.
“It may be 70 years since the treasure was found, but that does not mean the mistake should not be put right.”
The British Museum has not moved on its position. A spokesman said: “In terms of written documentation, the phrase ‘Mildenhall treasure’ was first used to name the silver found by Gordon Butcher, probably in January 1942, or possibly 1943. Sid Ford, who ended up with the treasure in his house wrote a letter on the 22nd June 1946 where he says that he reported the find to the police at Mildenhall since this was the largest local police station.
“Mr Ford did not call the find ‘the Mildenhall treasure’, but a letter written by the local coroner Thomas Wilson QC to Christopher Hawkes in June 1946, refers to the discovery being made ‘at Mildenhall’.”
Ruth Bowman, Mayor of Mildenhall High Town Council, said: “West Row’s proposal is ambitious, no-one locally would dispute where the treasure was found but given the original designation more than 70 years ago, it seems unlikely that history will be rewritten. It is for West Row to make the case to the British Museum if they feel they have sufficient reasons.
“Mildenhall High Town Council did not formally consider the petition commenced last year and have no plans to do so, this is certainly not a contentious matter for us, but one for the historians to decide.”
More by this authorWilliam Mata