A badge of honour for Walton-le-Dale
In the summer of 2011 archaeologists thrilled at the discovery of a rare silver medieval pilgrims badge in a field "somewhere between Blackburn and Preston".
The only example of its kind ever found in England, it was adopted by the British Museum as the image for their Treasures of Heaven exhibition. We can now reveal that the find was made in Walton-le-Dale.
The scrap of twisted silver (pictured above) has been identified as a religious badge showing one of the companions of St Ursula, a British princess. The adventures of her party of virgins en route to her marriage to a pagan prince in Europe, their diversion across Europe and eventual mass-slaughter, became a popular legend.
Accounts vary, but for centuries her shrine in Cologne was a place of devotion and to this day is adorned with the supposed the bones of her followers. St Ursula lived in early Christian times and her feast day is 21 October.
The object measures 45x30x10mm, weighs 16g and was made in around 1500-30. Unravelled, it reveals the face of a pleasant, fashionable young woman with stylish necklace, hair and headwear. It probably depicts one of the saint's erstwhile companions brought back by a Lancashire visitor to one of her shrines. An unrelated but similar image can be seen in the stained glass at Penwortham church.
The wonderful find was made by borough resident Paul King, a former pupil of Brownedge St Mary's, and an experienced fieldworker. Though the field had produced large numbers of Victorian coins, the discovery in April 2011 came as a surprise.
A member of the South Ribble Metal Detecting Club, he reported the find to the officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme based in the Lancashire Museum, Stanley Street, Preston. This service has proved very successful, and last year 97,509 finds were reported - 623 of them in Lancashire.
How the badge, for a coat or cap, came to be discarded here will never be known, but the area is one of the real hotspots of local archaeology, boasting the Roman site beneath the Capitol Centre, the Cuerdale Hoard, as well as a number of Bronze Age finds.
The badge has been acquired by the Lancashire Museum. South Ribble Metal Detecting Club meets at Thurlby Club, Egerton Road, Ashton, on the first Monday in the month.
Last updated: 29 January 2013