STOKE-ON-TRENT.- The Prince of Wales today became the first Royal to handle the Staffordshire Hoard in 1,400 years.
His Royal Highness was able to hold two artefacts from the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found a highly detailed crumpled gold cross and a decorative gold stud with millefiori glass thought to be of Celtic origin.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited an exhibition of 118 items from the hoard at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. Experts believe the craftsmanship of the seventh century treasures to be of high enough quality to have belonged to ancient kings.
Their Royal Highnesses visited Stoke-on-Trent to celebrate the centenary of the federation of the citys six towns. The full day visit also took in the citys Bethesda Chapel, an 18th century chapel which has fallen into disrepair and is being salvaged by the Historic Chapels Trust; a civic reception at Stoke Town Hall; and visits to Emma Bridgewater and Dudson pottery manufacturers.
Stoke-on-Trent Lord Mayor Jean Bowers said: This is a wonderful occasion for our city and we are delighted to welcome The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to Stoke-on-Trent in our 100th year. Their visit is the high point of our centenary celebrations.
Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for economic development and culture, said: The Staffordshire Hoard has sparked the imagination of people from across the globe the amount of treasures and some of the types of items have simply never been seen before.
It is a wonderful glimpse into our ancient past and we are thrilled to give Their Royal Highnesses the chance to see and handle some of these treasures.
The Princes ancestors date back to Anglo-Saxon times, most notably through Ealhswith, the wife of Alfred the Great. She was the granddaughter of the Mercian kind Wigmund and great-granddaughter of Wiglaf, both from the 820s and 830s.
The exhibition at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery includes 40 items of the hoard that have never been seen before. In the first five days of the display the exhibition attracted 10,000 visitors, including people from Essex and Cornwall and visitors from as far afield as South Carolina in America, and Sweden. The exhibition will run between 10am 5pm every day until Sunday 7 March.
The exhibition is supporting a huge fundraising effort to acquire The Staffordshire Hoard. The city council is working with Birmingham City Council to raise the £3.3m needed to buy the treasure. The money needs to be raised by 17 April.