New discovery: golden Iron Age torcs in the hills above Leek

Three Iron Age golden ‘torcs’ (neckwear) were discovered before Christmas by amateur metal detectorists in the Staffordshire Moorlands above Leek. In “a field on the northern outskirts of the town, near Rudyard” (Leek Post) and specifically “on the Heath family estate in Leek” (StaffsLive).

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is today assessing them as treasure, and curators at the British Museum consider them the… “earliest examples of Iron Age gold-work found so far in the UK”, dating from circa 250 to 400 B.C.

The torcs have been named the ‘Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs’ and will be on display at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent from 1st to 22nd March 2017. Abi Brown (Cons), Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “We have worked hard with partners to ensure such magnificent finds remain in Staffordshire and we would be thrilled for The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery to become custodians of another such important international discovery.”

Herbert Edmund Crowley

A 1911 work by the visionary comic-strip and later stage-set artist Herbert Edmund Crowley (not to be confused with a boring occult loon also named Crowley). It looks like a pro-drugs poster from the dawn of the London counter-culture circa 1967, but appears to have been meant to be an embodiment of the evils of alcoholism in an era when the temperance movement was very strong. The rye, held aloft, makes rye whisky…

A biography of this British artist by Justin Duerr is in the making, circa early 2017, which seems to be the same as $100k crowdfunder The Temple of Silence: Forgotten Worlds of Herbert Crowley (2017, forthcoming).


Other than his own Portfolio of Symbolic Drawings and Portfolio of Decorative Drawings in the 1910s, the only other book I can find is Herbert Edmund Crowley Papers (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1968), although this latter is either a very rare exhibition catalogue or a ‘ghost book’ of the type that sometimes enters the bibliographic record.

A kingly tree

A curious Toft plate from North Staffordshire, circa 1680. The imagery relates to the popular belief that King Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape the puritans of Oliver Cromwell, but it also seems to partake of the deeper Anglo-Saxon ‘Dream of the Rood’ tradition that conflated Christ, the cross and native trees. Since Charles is not just in the oak tree, but is the tree.


Save Wedgwood’s Vase

“Please help us to keep Josiah Wedgwood’s Vase in Stoke-on-Trent where it can be freely seen and enjoyed by all visitors to the Potteries Museums & Art Gallery forever.”


Seen above is a section of the First Days Vase (1769), photographed on display in the Potteries Museum. It shows the ancient heroes Oineus and Demophon. Oineus was said to have been taught the arts of the vine by Dionysos, and thus he later invented wine-making. Demophon was a hero of the Trojan War, being one of the soldiers inside the famous Trojan Horse – by which method he rescued his grandmother Aithra from torment in the city of Troy. Demophon was also the son of the Theseus, he who had famously braved the Minotaur in the Cretan maze.