The Chiseldon Local History Group Visits the British Museum

Recently members of the Chiseldon Local History Group had a wonderful opportunity – a behind the scenes tour of metal conservation at the British Museum, and a chance to see the work that has been done on the Chiseldon Cauldrons. We were met at the British Museum by Jamie Hood, one of the conservators working on the cauldrons and guided through a maze of hallways and backdoors to the conservation department. There Alex Baldwin and Jody Joy gave us a talk on the cauldrons – recapping their discovery for those in the group who weren’t there, and giving us more information on Iron Age cauldrons in the UK and Europe.

173 Members of the Chiseldon Local History Group at the British Museum

After the recap we split into groups to visit the different labs where metal conservation takes place. In one lab we had the opportunity to take a look at the cauldrons that are being worked with at the moment. For a few people on this trip this was an opportunity to see what has happened to the cauldrons, disguised as large piles of rust and mud, that they watched being removed from a farmer’s field in their home town. For others it was an opportunity to see the cauldrons up close for the first time. Either way the experience was wonderful. The cauldrons – and pieces of cauldrons – that we had the opportunity to see were still in the process of being conserved, but definitely look more like cauldrons than what was removed from the field in Chiseldon. The metal that the cauldrons were made of truly is wafer thin, and though the metal may still be crumpled, and in some places in fragments, the details that Jamie and Alex are slowly uncovering are amazing.

172 Looking at the Iron rim of one of the cauldrons. All of the containers on the table also have pieces of cauldrons in them.

After looking at the cauldrons we moved on to another metal conservation lab where more metal artefacts were being worked with. Here we got to see an Iron Age wine strainer, an Iron Age mirror, an Anglo-Saxon dagger, and an Iron Age bucket. Once again we had the opportunity to pepper the conservators with questions, and exclaim at the amount of patience that the very precise conservation work must require.

174 Looking at two cauldrons that were buried, and have corroded, together.

When our behind the scenes tour was over we ended the trip with a late lunch, and then a quick trip around the European Iron Age displays. We had the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the cauldrons that Jody Joy mentioned in his talk. Seeing a picture of the excavation of the cauldrons included as part of a display on eating and drinking in the Iron Age ended off the trip nicely.

175 Looking at a display on eating and drinking in the Iron Age – including a picture of the excavation of the Chiseldon Cauldrons.

Thank you very much to Alex Baldwin, Jamie Hood, Jody Joy and the other metal conservators at the British Museum for giving us the opportunity to come and see their work in progress.
If you are interested in the conservation of the Chiseldon Cauldrons a blog covering their conservation can be found on the British Museum website.


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