The Alfred Jewel

We are delighted to announce a unique opportunity to see the celebrated Alfred Jewel in Somerset.

The Alfred Jewel 131 January -28 February 2015

The Alfred Jewel, one of the most celebrated treasures from Anglo-Saxon England, is returning to Somerset for the first time in nearly 300 years.

The South West Heritage Trust has announced that, through the kindness of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, the Jewel will be displayed at the Museum of Somerset in Taunton during the month of February.

The Jewel, which dates from the late 9th century, was found near North Petherton church in 1693.  It is lavishly made of gold, enamel and rock crystal and includes the image of a seated figure. It also bears a famous inscription which translates as ‘Alfred ordered me to be made’.

It has long been assumed that King Alfred the Great commissioned the Jewel, and that it may have been his gift to the abbey at Athelney which he founded in thanksgiving for his defeat of the Vikings in 878.

Tom Mayberry, Chief Executive of the South West Heritage Trust, said, “The Alfred Jewel is a unique and compelling object which goes to the heart of West Country history. It left Somerset in 1718 and has never returned, so this is a very special occasion.

“We are deeply grateful to the Ashmolean Museum for making possible the loan of one of its greatest treasures. We are also very grateful to Arts Council England who contributed to the costs of the exhibition and without whose practical support the loan could not have happened.”

David Gwyther, Chairman of the South West Heritage Trust, said, “This is a fantastic opportunity to see one of England’s undoubted national treasures.  We hope as many people as possible will visit the Museum of Somerset during February to experience this unique and beautiful survival from the distant past.”

Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum, said, ‘The Alfred Jewel is an iconic object of Anglo-Saxon England and one of the most popular treasures at the Ashmolean.  For that reason, we rarely part with it, but it is a huge pleasure to lend the Jewel to the Museum of Somerset and thereby return it to its home county, if only for a month.  I hope as many people as possible from Somerset and the region go along to see the real Jewel and learn about this extraordinary and evocative object.’

The Alfred Jewel will be displayed at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton Castle, from Saturday 31 January until Saturday 28 February.  Talks by two leading Anglo-Saxon experts will take place during the month – by Professor Simon Keynes of Cambridge University on 11 February, and by Leslie Webster of the British Museum on 25 February. Full details of these and other events are in the events listing on the ‘what’s on’ part of our website.

The Museum’s opening hours during February are 10.00 am to 5.00 pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays, with last entry at 4.30 pm. There will also be special late opening events on Tuesdays. Admission to the museum is free.

Annual Closed Period

The Museum of Somerset will be closed to the public from Tuesday 13th to Friday 16th January 2015 to enable essential behind-the-scenes work to take place.  This year the work will include redecorating, changes to the CCTV system and work on the hearing loop around the museum.  It is also an opportunity to clean all the difficult to reach parts of the museum!

We will be back open on Saturday 17th January.

Film Night: ‘What We Did on Our Holiday’

Our next film night will be held on Thursday 22 January at 7.30 pm.

The magnificent Great Hall of the Museum provides a unique film-going experience and this month, to help banish the January blues, we will be showing ‘What We Did On Our Holiday’, a big-hearted family comedy starring David Tennant and Billy Connolly.

Booking is advisable for this event. Tickets, priced at £6, are available from the Museum either in person or by phone on 01823 255088.