Iron Age Torc from Glascote

Contributed by Birmingham Museums

Torc for an ancient Celtic chief, found at Glascote, Staffordshire. Copyright Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery

The original finder thought this golden neckpiece was an old coffin handle.This torc, a neckpiece made of gold alloy and weighing exactly 1lb (454 gm), was made for a Celtic chieftain, to be worn as a symbol of wealth, status and political power two thousand years ago. It was found by a canal worker near Glascote in Staffordshire. Thinking it was an old coffin handle, he was told to keep it as a souvenir, and it was not until 1970 that he realised its true worth. The torc was declared Treasure, and the museum was invited to purchase it. Raising the money was only possible through the generosity of the people of Birmingham, who launched a massive public appeal.

The torc is not perfect; there are several manufacturing imperfections, which suggests that it was a reject set aside to be re-worked. We know little about ancient Celtic life in this part of the country, but there must have been a major metalworking industry, and a significant Celtic society existing in the area to have sustained such a luxury craft.

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  • 2 comments
  • 1. At 21:56 on 11 April 2010, John Newson wrote:

    I believe Glascote to refer to an ancient church ecclesia, via old welsh eglas, i.e. dated before English speakers in this part of the Midlands and before supposed conversion by St Chad apostle of the Mercians. The torcs imperfections culd mean it was a votive offering at this point where 3 rivers meet, ie a pagan well or spring. Anyone have thoughts along the lines of a continous sacred traidtion through Romano-British period. NB Romano British temple at Coleshill (also meeting of 3 rivers).

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  • 2. At 21:59 on 11 April 2010, John Newson wrote:

    The torc weighing exactly one pound raises interesting questions about the origin of units of weight. Just how old is 'one pound'? I know that one pound money was once 240 silver pennies that supposedly weighed one pound.

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