In June 2013, on behalf of Middlewich Town Council, Ian Doughty Chair and Collections Manager of Congleton Museum travelled to the British Museum, London, to collect a 17th Century Gold Mourning Ring.
This brings to an end a year long wait for this beautiful ring to make its way back to Cheshire. It was found in Middlewich and classed as Treasure Trove, meaning a frantic few months for Middlewich Town Council to not only raise sufficient funds for the purchase of this ring but also find a way of showing it to the public.
Thanks to the assistance of Congleton Museum, Middlewich Town Council have joined forces to ensure that this ring stays in the care of the community from where it came. Funds were raised through Heritage Donations from activities such as Talks and Tours and a contribution by the Cheshire Archaeology Planning Advisory Service, enabling us to save it from an open sale.
Regulations that govern Museums in England means that the ring had to go to an Accredited Museum and as Middlewich is still in the early stages of planning this accreditation, Congleton Museum very kindly stepped in to help.
So why was it so important for us to save this ring for our community? The ring itself is very beautiful and intricately worked by a fine jeweller; it is also a rare find in Middlewich, especially of the Restoration – King Charles II era.
The ring has a story to tell about the status of Landowners and influential families in the Cheshire area and can help us to understand more about the history of Middlewich. It can also act as a catalyst for further collection items or loans from this unique period of history and can be used as part of school or community project work. Ultimately Middlewich Town Council seeks to protect Middlewich Heritage, showing items like this in a future town exhibition.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to have this item to show to the community, it represents a difficult period in the lives of Middlewich people but also the status of the landowners.
Congleton Museum have very kindly loaned their support by helping us to store the item until we can get it on display. Their help has been fantastic and shows what we can do when we work together.
It is only now that the ring is in procession of Congleton Museum that we can clearly see the delicate markings on this ring, such precision required for the jeweller to produce.
The ring itself is small, delicate and highly decorative, there is hardly any ware, the inscription is as clear as the day it was engraved. This is suggestive of a ring either not worn often or lost early on. If our time line of manufacture is around 1658 – 1669, there are many candidates for the ring’s owner, including Frances and Katherine Venables both widows of the last two Barons of Kinderton.
A history is currently being compiled to unravel the story and mystery behind the ring and its wearer ready for an exhibition, the first of which will be at Congleton Museum.
Working in Partnership with Middlewich Town Council, Congleton Museum will arrange the first ever public outing of this beautiful find. The exhibition date will be announced later this year by which time we will also be able to advise on the long-term arrangements for display.
A big thank you to everyone involved including Middlewich High School who made a short film highlighting the need for donations.