Parade marks opening of banners exhibition

BANNERS HIGH ... the exhibition at Bede's World, with, below, top, the Reliquary Pendant and, bottom, the Towton ring.
BANNERS HIGH ... the exhibition at Bede's World, with, below, top, the Reliquary Pendant and, bottom, the Towton ring.

A COLOURFUL procession of miners’ banners heralded the official launch of an exhibition showing the rich legacy of the region.

The parade marked the opening of Banners of the North, at Bede’s World, Jarrow, one of the finest collections of Northern treasures ever to go on display.

The items, which include rings, badges and pendants dating back to the Middle Ages, were all either found in the North East or belonged to someone who lived in, or visited, the area.

Among them is the Towton ring, a signet ring believed to have belonged to Northumberland’s Henry Percy, who later died in battle fighting for Henry VI during the Wars of the Roses.

The ring was supposedly lost at the battle of Towton in 1461, one of the bloodiest battles in Britain’s history and is made of solid gold and engraved with a lion – the emblem of the Percy family.

Matt Storey, operations co-ordinator at Bede’s World, said: “The Percys were immensely powerful at the time.

“Not only would this have been a prized and very personal possession, but there is evidence it has been slashed at with a sword, so its owner was certainly familiar with conflict and violence.”

Another exhibit portraying life in the Middle Ages is the Reliquary Pendant of St George. No bigger than a fingernail, it would have been worn on a chain around the neck.

One of the plainest items in the exhibition is also one of the most important.

The seal matrix of the vacant See of Durham is a small, engraved, copper alloy disc, displaying King Henry VI on one side and the arms of England and France on the other.

During the 15th century, the Prince Bishops of Durham ruled the County Palatine of Durham on behalf of the King. They had enormous power to issue their own writs, form an army and mint coins.

When Bishop Langley died in 1437, his seal could no longer be used to authenticate documents and so this temporary seal – or matrix – was created to be used until the appointment of the next Prince Bishop in 1438.

Mr Storey said: “Without this tiny seal, important official documents could not be issued and the Palatinate of Durham could not be governed, which makes it incredibly important to the history of this area.”

Banners of the North also features coins from the reigns of Alexander III and Edwards I and IV, along with a Papal ring, of gilded copper alloy and glass, which bears the arms of the family of Pope Paul II.

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