Roman Coins: sources of economic history, mediums for art work and portraiture, platforms for political thought, stages for religious culture and for buying your bread with. All this from one little object…..

It is one month since the launch of Shropshire’s Heritage Heroes, (www.heritageheroes.org.uk), and we can proudly announce that we have reached over 100 virtual volunteers!  Thank you to everyone who has signed up and who have taken the time to start editing and submitting records.  There are two projects available to choose from at the moment; a charming Shropshire commercial directory from 1916 and a glorious group of Roman coins. For this, the second blog from Shropshire’s Heritage Heroes, we have chosen to honour the magnificent Roman coin and this blog has been written by Emily Nicklin, Volunteer Co-ordinator for the Shropshire Heritage Heroes website project.  Emily and her family are passionate about coins and she is thrilled to be able to combine work with pleasure in this way.  Please have a read about coins and how you can help in enhancing the record held on them.

Roman Coin 2      Roman Coin 3       Roman Coin 1

(Images sourced from Shropshire Museums) Roman Coins: sources of economic history, mediums for art work and portraiture, platforms for political thought, stages for religious culture and for buying your bread with. All this from one little object. The Roman Coins Project. Not everyone has the feelings of excitement, wonder, joy and giddiness like I do when they are faced with a Roman coin but I hope after reading this blog you will feel at least one of these emotions! Ludlow Museum and Resource Centre and Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery would like some assistance in providing more information on the numismatic collections they hold.  For those of you who do not know, numismatics is “the study of coins, medals, and (occasionally) banknotes, especially from an archaeological or historical perspective. Also: the collection of these as artefacts.”  We are aware this is a specialist field but there are a number of individuals out there who enjoy delving in and out and have expert self-taught knowledge, my dad for example. My love for coins and metal objects. My passion for coins and metal objects started at a very young age with my parents who both enjoyed the metal detecting hobby.  I am from a farming family and so finding land and seeking permission was not an issue (please only metal detect responsibly!To find out what this means please visit: http://finds.org.uk/getinvolved/guides/codeofpractice It always amazed me how much history you could find in one session, from Roman brooches, (image of my dad’s brooch, sourced from http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/392803), PAS 1

to post medieval buckles, (image of my dad’s buckle, sourced from http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/130555). PAS 2

They are real pieces of history that can be held in your hand.  I used to close my eyes and imagine who had last touched them and how had they been lost and buried?  Maybe the Roman brooch belonged to a young man who had made it to give to a lady he liked, only to find she liked someone else and so he tossed it down and there it stayed, lost and buried, until my dad found it 2000 years later. This is unlikely, but when I was younger this seemed like a good enough explanation, at the end of the day no one knows for sure.  This is where I got my buzz, it was this hands on experience which led me down the heritage path and to pursue a career in something that I truly love and am passionate about. So, why are Roman coins so important? This is the interesting part … Unlike most modern coins, Roman coins played a key part in Roman society.  The Romans used coins as a marketing tool as they could reach all corners of their far reaching empire without any extra cost.  They could convey a meaning or relate an idea via their imagery and inscriptions right across the globe. Coins were not meant to influence the populace, they were for and used by the elite, however, this ability to self-promote created intense and corrupt competition amongst the ruling classes.  At first nobles and senators could use coins to promote their name but it was Emperor Julius Caesar who decided to change the game and issued coins bearing his own portrait.  Now with this change in dynamic, imagery on coins had taken on a whole new meaning.  In fact it was so dynamic that we still use the image of our ruling monarch on coins today.  One man’s idea still in use over 2,000 years on, not many people can say that. After Julius Caesar’s assassination, the portrait of an emperor on a coin became legal in 44 BC and all subsequent emperors used their own image on coins as a way of disseminating themselves throughout the empire.  It also meant that the coin could now embody the attributes of the emperor portrayed.  However, it was also an opportunity to exaggerate.  More often than not emperors liked to make themselves appear God-like and gave themselves attributes normally associated with divinities.  For example; Emperor Commodus, in AD192, depicted himself clad in a lion-skin (the usual depiction of Hercules) on one side, and an inscription proclaiming that he was the Roman incarnation of Hercules on the other.  This is an extreme case but it shows you their true objective. Coins are evidence we can use to better understand the history, economy and art of that era.  They survive in such vast quantities which allows us an in depth insight into official religion and cult, political thought and propaganda and ideological artistic features.  However, despite all of this we are far from understanding this amazing tiny object. Who knew that something so small could hold so much? PAS 3

(image of my dad’s rare roman coin, sourced from http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/385542)

So, Question: What do you do if you find a coin (artefact piece of pot, flint or anything like it)? Answer: Report it to your local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO).  Please click here for current FLO contact list. The Portable Antiquities Scheme and The British Museum. My parents reported anything they found, of historical importance, to the FLO.  FLO’s are part of the Portable Antiquity Scheme, (head office: The British Museum). At the moment, The British Museum also have a number of exciting ‘virtual’ projects and if you enjoy working on our Roman coins you may enjoy their MicroPasts project. There are around 7500 cards to transcribe and 1000 images to photomask. If you fancy getting involved just click on the link: http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org. There is also an article written about Micropasts, so if you fancy knowing a bit more first have a read at, http://finds.org.uk/news/stories/article/id/254. If you have any questions about this project or the Portable Antiquities Scheme then you can contact Shropshire’s FLO, Peter Reavill on peter.reavill@shropshire.gov.uk, who has an office at Ludlow Museum and Resource Centre. Back to Shropshire’s Heritage Heroes. So do you fancy having a look at these incredible marketing tools?  Fancy seeing if you can see the message the emperor is trying to tell?  See if one emperor is exaggerating a bit too much?!  The Roman coins we have selected need more information adding to the description.  We need the coin’s records updating and improving and we need YOU, our Virtual Volunteers, to share your knowledge and help us to achieve this.  We do not expect you to be a professor of numismatics but you will need to have some knowledge of coins.  There are more coin projects coming up including one that holds one of the largest hoards of faked (contemporary copied) late Roman coins found in Britain, known as the Bridgnorth Hoard. Watch this space! We are busy working at getting more projects available on the website so again, so keep looking out for what we are doing.  I can tell you that we have some very interesting World War One Field Diaries and some wonderful Shropshire banknotes coming soon.  We are also, as you read, working on making our first of hopefully many, ‘How to …’ instruction videos on how to work and use the website.

So bookmark our website and watch this space for updates!!!

Roman Coin 4     Roman Coin 5    Roman Coin 6

(Images sourced from Shropshire Museums)  

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June 19, 2014 · 12:59 pm

The Technological Cutting Edge: Virtual Volunteering for Shropshire’s Heritage

Virtual volunteering may sound incredibly futuristic, however, it is happening globally and anyone, (with a computer and internet access), can be involved.

Shropshire Archives and Discovering Shropshire’s History partners have now got their own piece of the action. The new website, www.heritageheroes.org.uk, is being launched tomorrow at Discover Shropshire Day at the Shirehall, Shrewsbury. This sees Shropshire staking its place firmly at the forefront of technological and virtual advancement. The Shropshire’s Heritage Heroes website contains details of archives and local studies material, physical artefacts, works of art, technological items, handicrafts, details of archaeological sites, buildings and finds from digs and information on partners such as history societies. This project is leading the way in volunteering, as the ‘virtual volunteers’, from their own homes, do not just obtain the opportunity to enhance records held at the Shropshire Archives and partner organisations, but what they submit, after being moderated, is then returned back into the archives and museums catalogue databases. This is a first that we know of in this country.

The project was started back in 2013, with the appointment of a Project Manager, Alison Pritchard, and a Volunteer Coordinator, Emily Nicklin. Having been in post now for nine months, the project has taken lots of twists and turns and uncovered some very exciting items, from Victorian postcards with a naughty hidden secret, to a late 17th early 18th century recipe and remedy book.

If you are unable to physically visit a museum or archive centre to volunteer, for whatever reason, then this is the project for you. You will have a variety of tasks to choose from including spelling and grammar checking, linking data, transcribing documents, indexing and taking part in more in-depth research. Projects will be visible on the home page and will change and alter once completed, so we ask you to be patient and see what interesting things come up!

We hope to attract a variety of ‘virtual volunteers’ ranging in skills, ages, geographical locations and motivations, we hope that this project will enable the sharing of expertise regarding the collections and create its very own online hub community between its ‘virtual volunteers’ and archive and museum professionals.

So if you think this is something of interest, then please follow the link, www.heritageheroes.org.uk, register and go grab a project that you fancy.

Please watch this space ….

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Discover Shropshire Day

Medieval dance workshop at the last 'Discover Shropshire Day' in October 2012

Medieval dance workshop at the last ‘Discover Shropshire Day’ in October 2012

We’re in the last couple of weeks or so before ‘Discover Shropshire Day’, coming up at Shirehall in Shrewsbury on Saturday 26th April 10.30am – 4pm. It’s shaping up to be a really good day. Speakers include:
Stuart Dunn – SHREWSBURY TOWN FC: REFLECTIONS AND ANECDOTES
Peter Francis – THE WAR MEMORIALS OF SHROPSHIRE
John Stretton – THE GREAT WAR AND ALBRIGHTON
Sarah Knight – FULKE GREVILLE, ELIZABETHAN EDUCATION AND SHREWSBURY
Emma Hankinson – THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SHROPSHIRE PEATLANDS
Richard Bifield – THE FRIENDS OF IRONBRIDGE GORGE MUSEUM TRUST
Richard Bifield – THE SHROPSHIRE HISTORIC CHURCHES TRUST

There will be the launch of the Shropshire pages on http://www.findmypast.co.uk and also of Shropshire’s ‘Heritage Heroes’, the Arts Council funded ‘virtual volunteering’ project. There’ll be some short films showing, including ‘We Made our Town’, the film produced by the Telford based ‘We Made Our Town’ project, relating the stories of people who came to live in the town due to the New Town development. There’ll be music from Professor Squeezyjig and, as if all that weren’t enough, there will be advice, information and displays from the following organisations:

Shropshire Archaeology and the Historic Environment Record
Telford & Wrekin Libraries
Shropshire Libraries
Shropshire Archives
Oswestry Town Archives
Oswestry Town Museum
Shropshire Parks and Garden Trust
Albrighton & District Historical Society
All Stretton History Group
Shrewsbury & Newport Canal Trust
Oswestry Family & Local History Group
Churches Conservation Trust
Whitchurch History & Archaeology Group
Claverley Memories
Shrewsbury Port Canal Trust
Lydbury North Field Group
Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings

If you like Shropshire, you’ll love ‘Discover Shropshire Day’! Admission is FREE and there’s no need to book.

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Autograph hunting

Laura Turner is one of the volunteers at Shropshire Archives converting the catalogue of the Shrewsbury Library Collection (a large collection of assorted historic records that were transferred to the care of the service when archives and libraries merged in the 1990s). Laura reports the below:

Rowland, 1st Viscount Hill

Rowland, 1st Viscount Hill

Many of you might believe that autograph collecting, or philography, is a fairly modern phenomenon, but that’s where you’d be wrong. The earliest considered autograph is part of a Sumerian Clay table from c 3100 BC which includes the name of the scribe Gar Ama. The earliest known written autograph is by the major historical figure El Cid which dates from 1098. Recently three autographs were found at the Shropshire Archives. Sir Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill, served in the Napoleonic wars under the command of the Duke of Wellington. He was to become Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1828. Another related to William Ormsby Gore, 4th Baron Harlech, who was a conservative politician. The third was that of Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson, 3rd Earl of Liverpool. These were an interesting find.

Also unearthed were two letters from Tom Stevens, first Bishop of Barking, who was educated locally at Shrewsbury School. His letter is beautifully written and illustrated and addressed to a Gertrude. Born in 1841 he was educated at Sherborne and Magdalene College Cambridge and was the son of Thomas Ogden Stevens of Salisbury. He was awarded a Degree of Doctor of Divinity from Magdalene College in May 1901. His first post led him to Charterhouse School as Assistant Master, later becoming the Bishop of Barking 1901 – 1919. He was succeeded by James Inskip. The second of the two letters was written one month before his death in 1920.

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The Progress of Henry V and his knights through Cheshire

15th century miniature of the Battle of Agincourt

15th century miniature of the Battle of Agincourt

James Link is a volunteer at Shropshire Archives who is assisting in the conversion of one of the catalogues into database form. James takes up the story below:

A catalogue of Deeds and Charters in the Shrewsbury Free Public Library, as it was then known, contains a list of assorted documents which have now come into the possession of the Shropshire Archives. It is a series of leather bound volumes, comprising a numbered list of descriptions written from 1905 onwards. The items are in no particular order; they can originate from vastly disparate time periods.

One such item was a roll of apparent 15th century date. It contained a list of “the names of certain Archers lately assigned to certain Knights and Esquires for the King’s journey through Cheshire”, according to the original catalogue entry. In total there were sixteen knights and squires with 182 archers between them. Many of the surnames belonged to well-known Cheshire families. Several knights on the list were appointed commissioners, as indicated by the abbreviation “Chr.” The question was: who was the king that they accompanied through the county?

Among the knights were representatives of the leading nobility of the county, such as Sir Thomas Grosvenor, an ancestor of the present-day Dukes of Westminster, and William Cholmole, probably an abbreviation of Cholmondeley. The prominences of these names made it possible to conduct a basic internet search to find them on various genealogical websites. To my surprise, several of the knights had lived no later than around 1420 (although the tendency for families to reuse forenames made it difficult to narrow down, a few had only one occurrence in the 15th century). That would suggest the reign of Henry V. In fact, some had even fought in the battle of Agincourt alongside the King, such as Sir Philip Leche, Ralph de Bostok and Sir John Savage. Archers were instrumental there in defeating the much larger French force of armoured knights.

What was still unclear was whether this roll dated from before or after the battle, as Henry returned to France after the victory to consolidate his position, and he may have been travelling through the county either to raise revenue or rally his forces. Interestingly, further research indicated that Cheshire was renowned for the quality of its longbowmen, and Henry (who had been Earl of Chester before acceding to the throne) recruited 700 men from the county in 1415 before the battle. He returned several times subsequently for more men, and biographical details on Ralph of Bostock state that he was one of 15 captains who led 180 archers on another expedition to France. This seems highly likely to be the occasion concerned in the roll.

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Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery at the Music Hall

old-music-hallFabulous news earlier today about the opening of the magnificent new Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery at the Music Hall. Please see http://shropshire.gov.uk/news/2014/03/shrewsburys-new-museum-art-gallery-set-to-open-its-doors-following-ground-breaking-restoration/ for more information.

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Discover Shropshire Day: Saturday 26th April 2014

‘Discover Shropshire Day’ to be held Saturday 26th April at the Shirehall in Shrewsbury is shaping up to be a really interesting event (see http://www.shropshire.gov.uk/media/825738/Discover-Shropshire-2014.pdf). As well as a myriad of local heritage organisations coming along to display their wares, recruit volunteers and dispense advice and information we have the following speakers:

*Peter Francis, author of ‘Shropshire War Memorials’.
*BBC Radio Shropshire’s Stuart Dunn, talking about the history of Shrewsbury Town FC
*John Stretton talking about the Great War and Albrighton
*Luke Neal from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, talking about the historical significance of the Shropshire peatlands
*Dr Sarah Knight talking about Fulke Greville and his relationship with Shrewsbury (he went to school here, along with Philip Sidney, whose biography he wrote)

FindMyPast will be there to launch ‘The Shropshire Collection’ the digital Shropshire parish register resource and Alison Pritchard and Emily Nicklin will be on hand to launch ‘Heritage Heroes’, the Arts Council England funded project to facilitate remote volunteering. There’ll be some live music and refreshment will be available. Admission is free and there’s no need to book. More information is available from John Benson (john.benson@shropshire.gov.uk/ 01743 255377).

If you connect to Shropshire you’ll love ‘Discover Shropshire Day’!

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