Winchester's Saxon hanging bowl is home!

Press Release: 26/07/2007

Winchester's Hanging Bowl

Over 75 years after its original discovery, the 'Winchester hanging bowl' is back in the city and will be on permanent display at the City Museum in The Square, Winchester.

Wintonians have Hampshire County Council - the owners of the bowl - to thank for requesting its return from the British Museum, to whom it had been lent since its discovery, and who have generously co-operated in lending it to Winchester City Council on long term loan.

A VIP unveiling of this famous local artefact will take place at 2pm on Wednesday 25th July, when a glass will be raised to the lecture-goer who prompted its return.

In August 1930, local archaeologist W J Andrew was excavating at Oliver's Battery, a few miles south-west of Winchester, trying to discover the origins of the earthworks. However, he encountered a totally unexpected find - the grave of a young Saxon man who had been buried with a javelin, a short hunting sword or 'seax' and a beautiful bronze bowl. The bowl, decorated with spiral red enamel designs, and with suspension hooks and fittings in the form of aquatic birds, proclaims the man's high social status, perhaps even that of royalty.

Experts, noting similarities in decorative style between the bowl and Irish illuminated manuscripts, believe the bowl may have been made in Ireland in the late 7th century AD or perhaps commissioned from an Irish craftsman.

The return of the bowl came about following a question posed by a member of the audience at the end of the 2006 Christmas lecture by Prof Barbara Yorke from the University of Winchester.  She was invited by Winchester Museums to speak about the Saxon grave following a popular community heritage project at Oliver's Battery over the preceding months.  To mark the end of the project, Winchester Museums had also arranged for the temporary loan of the bowl which was enjoyed by many visitors when displayed at the Guildhall Gallery.

But lecture-goers clearly felt that the proper home for the bowl was the city where it was found and were reluctant to see the temporary loan come to an end.  With a spot of professional co-operation between Hampshire County Council, The British Museum and Winchester City Council, the bowl and seax were soon heading for a long term home in Winchester's own City Museum. 

Principal Heritage Services Officer Dick Whinney, who managed the community heritage project and organised the Barbara Yorke lecture, said, "If it hadn't been for the enthusiasm of the residents of Oliver's Battery we almost certainly wouldn't now have been welcoming the bowl back. This makes a really wonderful finale to our community project."

Eloise Appleby, Head of Cultural Services for Winchester City Council, stated, "We are in a new era of partnership.  The role of Hampshire County Council's museums and archives service in brokering the return of the bowl cannot be underestimated.  All those involved in museums care passionately about making local heritage available to local people, and this arrangement does seem a truly logical step.  I hope that the person who asked the question at our Christmas lecture will come forward so that we can thank him or her for prompting us to reconsider a move that now seems so obvious after years of accepting the status quo."

The bowl can be seen at the City Museum, The Square, Winchester, from Monday 25th July onwards.

Admission to the museum is free and opening hours are Mon-Sat, 10am -5pm, Sun noon-5pm.

Postcards of the bowl are also on sale @20p each in the museum shop.