Mildenhall Treasure: British Museum steps in to row over Roman hoard

Mildenhall Treasure Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Mildenhall Treasure includes the Great Dish, aka the Bacchic platter, featuring the face of Oceanus

The British Museum has stepped in to a bitter row between two communities over the name of one of Britain's biggest treasure finds.

The 4th Century hoard found at West Row, Suffolk, was named the Mildenhall Treasure, after the village's parish.

Campaigners from West Row want the British Museum to rename the finds.

But curator Richard Hobbs said the name was "logical" and treasures were "invariably named after the local parish in which they are discovered".

The 34-piece Roman silver collection was discovered by ploughman Gordon Butcher and has been on display in the British Museum since 1946, earning a place in its top 10 list of British treasures.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Mildenhall Treasure was found in a field at West Row - three miles away from Mildenhall town

West Row parish councillor John Smith said locals had always "felt slighted" by the name, but the campaign gathered momentum after West Row was designated a parish in its own right in April 2019.

"It's wiping West Row off the map," he said, adding the museum made no mention of West Row.

"Everyone here is connected with the treasure in some way. It is who we are and it will never make sense until the right name is in place."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Mildenhall town is three miles from West Row

The Mildenhall Treasure is described by the British Museum as "one of the most iconic finds from Roman Britain".

Mr Hobbs, the curator responsible for the hoard, said it became associated with Mildenhall - a town and parish neighbouring West Row - as it was originally reported to its police station in 1946.

"The local coroner Thomas Wilson QC refers to the discovery being made 'at Mildenhall'," Mr Hobbs said.

"This would imply that because the find was made within the Mildenhall parish, this was the name subsequently given to the find."

Though the museum was not behind the naming, he added: "In my view this remains the most logical way to describe it since it's the name of the parish in which the discovery was made."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Silver platter with Bacchanalian figures from the Mildenhall Treasure

Mr Smith said the name had been "wrongly attributed".

"You cannot write history that way," he said.

"West Row has such an interesting history and a rich Roman heritage - we need to celebrate that. We fought for our parish. We'll fight for this."

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