The approach and environs of the Potteries Museum, Hanley Cultural Quarter, Stoke-on-Trent, incorporate art that, together, tell key dimensions of the heritage of the environs, including a statue to author Arnold Bennett, aeronautical engineer Reginald Mitchell and a statue commemorating the 6 Potteries towns (above). The facade of the museum itself takes forward the story of the industry of the area. When I visited the Potteries Museum in July 2019, I failed to notice that the famous Anglo-Saxon hoard, discovered in July 2009 south-west of Lichfield and part-acquired by the Potteries Museum, has become a key component of this external commemorative space.
A 9-line poem inspired by the discovery and display of the Staffordshire Hoard is laid out in the pavement along the south-east side of Broad Street beside the Museum. The lines of the poem run up slope towards the entrance to the Museum and Arnold Bennett’s statue, passing by other statues commemorating dimensions of the history of the Potteries area. At the ends of each line are zoomorphic designs inspired by the Style II animal art of the Hoard’s sword and seax hilts. I fear I failed to photograph the 9th and final line of the poem! If anyone knows what it reads, please let me know!
In the 8 lines I recorded, the Hoard’s discovery, hasty burial, significance for the Mercian kingdom and the relationship between the powerful kings Penda and Offa, are evoked. The mystery of the Hoard’s precise circumstances of loss and importance are made clear. The buzzing puzzles that the Hoard continue to foster interest, and will be the focus of the conference next week at the Society of Antiquaries of London, coinciding with the publication of the hoard by Chris Fern, Tania Dickinson and Leslie Webster. What is clear is that the Hoard has already began to impress itself on the landscapes of the West Midlands through art and landscape: the Anglo-Saxon past comes from the earth and is inscribed back into the pavement.