UK’s biggest Viking hoard secured by National Museum of Scotland

The Galloway Hoard was discovered buried in a field by a metal detectorist three years ago.
The Galloway Hoard was discovered buried in a field by a metal detectorist three years ago.
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UK Government funding has helped the National Museum of Scotland secure Britain’s biggest hoard of Viking-age treasures.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund, which was set up to prevent national treasures from being “lost forever,” has agreed to meet half the £2 million cost of acquiring the hoard.

Museums chiefs had asked for help from the fund, which is officially described as “a fund of last resort” for national treasures.

It has previously secured the future of the Flying Scotsman locomotive, Dumfries House, an 18th century stately home in Ayrshire, and Antonia Canova’s statue The Three Graces, which is regularly displayed in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Government and the Art Fund are among the other funders of the acquisition of what has been described as “the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland.

The Galloway Hoard, which features more than 100 separate items believed to span at least three centuries, was uncovered by metal detectorist Derek McLennan beneath church land in Dumfries and Galloway three years ago.

The collection of gold, silver and jewelled treasures buried at the beginning of the 10th century was likely to have been put up for auction, without its support, which was described as “the final step” towards meeting the coast of securing them for the nation.

The fate of the hoard has been confirmed five months after it was allocated to the museum by the Crown, which launched a high-profile campaign to raise the value of the hoard by mid-November.

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the museum, said the National Heritage Memorial Fund was approached for support even before the hoard had officially been allocated in May.

He said: “The National Heritage Memorial Fund only funds a handful of projects each year, so the fact they have recognised the significance of the Galloway Hoard is quite something.

“It is operated by the Heritage Lottery Fund, but it doesn’t involve any lottery money. The UK Government provides its funding, but it is up to the fund to decide where it goes to.

“Every year things come up which are really important and are must-haves. Their job is generally to come in at the end and see what the position is.”

Bruce Minto, chair of the trustees of the museum, said: “We originally approached the National Heritage Memorial Fund when the Galloway Hoard first came on the scene.

“They said at the time that they would support us but it would be a question of how much. We didn’t get the value of the hoard until May and it was higher than anyone expected.

“The problem was the six-month timetable that is set in law. If we didn’t raise it the hoard would have gone to auction.”

A selection of the treasures, which were believed to have been buried at the start of the 10th century, have been on display at the museum for the last five months to bolster the fundraising campaign.

However it will be another two years before a major exhibition is staged at the Edinburgh attraction - the busiest in Scotland - after a full conservation and research project is carried out.

Museum chiefs have pledged to then take the hoard out on tour, including to Kirkcudbright, where local campaigners had been trying to secure the treasures for a permanent display in a new gallery.

Dr Rintoul said: “We think it is really important that people in Dumfries and Galloway get to see the hoard.
“But it is also important that people across Scotland also get the chance to see it. We will be announcing details of a national tour in due course.”