Iron-age Wisbech Scabbard back on display at Wisbech museum

AN internationally-renowned ancient scabbard has been put back on display at a Fenland museum after a five-year absence and a �4,000 restoration project.

The prestige object, known as the Wisbech Scabbard, is the decorated upper part of a sheath for a short sword or dagger and dates back to 300BC.

The scabbard, a rare example of the earliest style of La T�ne art, was given to Wisbech Museum more than 160 years ago but was taken off display in 2005.

David Wright, curator at the museum, said: “The scabbard is critical to our understanding of art and chronology in the British Iron Age.

“It is traditionally referred to as the Wisbech Scabbard and was given to the museum in 1847 by Samuel Smith, who was one of the pioneers of documentary photography.


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“It is thought that this piece came from the vicinity of Wisbech and for a Celtic object to be found in this area is quite extraordinary.

“However it was taken off display in 2005 because it had deteriorated to such a state that it was too delicate and we had to wait until last year for it to be restored.

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“The many painstaking hours of conservation treatment has preserved the object revealing the full beauty and intricate detail of the decoration.

“It is very important for the museum that this treasured object is now back on display and available for visitors to see.”

Mr Wright said the scabbard was sent out to exhibitions in both Venice and London in the 1990s and is an “object of international renown”.

He added: “Amongst the archaeology community there is great interest in this object and it’s quite remarkable how far the knowledge of the Wisbech Scabbard is.

“It is actually quite rare that an object of this type is in a small, rural museum like ours.”

The scabbard was restored at a cost of �4,000 with the help of a substantial conservation grant from the Association of Independent Museums.

The object occupies a prominent position in the museum’s main gallery in a dedicated display case purchased with the assistance of The Leche Trust and the Friends of Wisbech Museum.

Mr Wright said: “What we wanted to do is create a micro climate for it so we can control the environment better. By controlling the environment around the scabbard we can slow any deterioration.”

Mr Wright said he is hoping to have a full-scale replica of the scabbard made based on the original object.

“But these things cost money so we will probably have to put in another grant application,” he said.

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