Iron Age Bronze Mirror

Didcot Iron Age Mirror To Stay in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire County Council’s Museums Service has been successful in its appeal to raise £33,000 to purchase the rare bronze Iron Age mirror, discovered near Didcot.

The mirror, which dates from the 1st century BC, is decorated with a highly unusual and beautiful curvilinear La Tène style pattern. These particular mirrors are unique to Britain and only 18 complete ones are known to exist.

The only one to have been found in Oxfordshire, the mirror was discovered near Didcot some years ago, by a metal detector user and was recently sold to an anonymous bidder and would have been exported had the appeal not reached its target.

Hours to spare

The Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum had until September 12 to raise the local funds needed to keep the mirror in the country and to put it on display in Oxfordshire. The target was therefore met with only hours to spare.

Amazing achievement

 Councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Cultural Services, said: “It is an amazing achievement by everyone who has supported the appeal, both locally and internationally”

“I am delighted  that such a significant part of the heritage of Oxfordshire has been saved for the county and the nation. We are particularly grateful for the support of Wartski, the Court jewellers, who very generously made a major contribution to the Appeal launched by the Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum which raised half of the money needed.”

“The Friends Appeal was matched by grants from the ACE/V&A Purchase grant fund and The Headley Trust, providing the Museum Service with the £33,000 needed to purchase the Mirror and keep it in the UK.”

Outstanding work of art

Carol Anderson, Director of the Oxfordshire Museum, said: “The generosity of local people in supporting the appeal has been fantastic’

“This mirror is a nationally important archaeological artefact as well as an outstanding work of art and piece of craftsmanship which will now stay in Oxfordshire where it was used more than 2,000 years ago.  It will help us properly reflect the incredible archaeological heritage we enjoy in the county, and be a spectacular exhibit for the county’s museums.”

When can it be seen by the public?

Once the Mirror is safely in the care of the Museums service arrangements will be made to put it on temporary display at the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot and subsequently at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. Thereafter the Mirror will form part of a temporary touring exhibition exploring the history of metal working in Oxfordshire before it is given a permanent home at the Oxfordshire Museum.

Reflecting on the Iron Age era

Historians are unclear on what the exact function of mirrors in the Iron Age society would be but David Moon, Curator of Archaeology with the Museums service, believes that they could have been used for other purposes than just to check their appearance.

He said: “They would certainly have been prestigious items, owned by few people. Mirrors can be used to reflect light into dark spaces or to signal across distances as well as to apply make-up or check your hair. In many cultures mirrors are magical objects, which reflect an alternative view of the world, or act as a portal to another world, like Alice found in Through the Looking Glass. This may well have been the case in Iron Age, Druidic society, and mirrors may be connected to fortune telling or shamanic activity. While this mirror was a casual find with no archaeological context, some have been found in association with cremation burials, so mirrors may also have had a function connected with death or afterlife.”

The Appeal, launched by the Friends of the Museum, remains open to receive further donations to contribute towards the costs of conserving and displaying the Mirror and undertaking further research which aims to reveal more of its hidden story.

For further information or to make a donation please visit http://www.friendsoftom.co.uk/   

To make a donation online through Just Giving – http://www.justgiving.com/oxfordshiremuseum  

Or send your donation to

Didcot Mirror Appeal
The Oxfordshire Museum
Park Street
Woodstock
OX20 1SN

Cheques payable to the Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum