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Royal blood reaches Alton

It seems like only yesterday that ‘Royal Blood’ was being installed at Andover, Fareham and Aldershot…and already it’s time to up sticks and cases and graphics and objects and move things to Alton, Christchurch and Eastleigh.  At Alton it’s the Allen Gallery that hosts the touring exhibitions and last week saw RB safely installed, with particular mention of the Late Iron Age and Civil War periods.

ALTON IA

Horse skulls, harness fittings, chariot fittings, sling stones and gold coins; military might 2000 years ago.

We chose the Late Iron Age because there’s a hoard known as the ‘Alton Hoard’ in the British Museum. The find was of particular significance because it contained coins of a tribal leader previously known only as ‘Tinc’ – and believed to be ‘Tincommius’ (by adding the ‘Tin’ bit to his father’s or grandfather’s name).  The new finds (well, 1996) contained coins marked ‘Tincomarus‘, causing excitement across the numismatic world.  Incidentally, although the hoard is said to hail from Alton – it’s actually from Froxfield – ‘and that’s nearer to Petersfield’ as one mildly indignant Altonian told me.

Whichever corner of East Hampshire the coins hail from, they’ll be on show in the  main Royal Blood exhibition, which begins its tour (at Basingstoke) in early September.

The other featured element at the Allen Gallery is the ‘Storming of Alton’, and this Civil War episode couldn’t have reached its climax much closer to the exhibition’s location.  In December, 1643, as Alton was occupied by a Royalist force of 900, the Parliamentary General, Sir William Waller, gathered 5000 men and began a night march, ostensibly towards Basing. He turned towards Alton, however, and surrounded the town. A fierce battle ensued, with Waller getting the upper hand by using a number of lightweight leather-barrelled field guns, recently received from London.

ALTON CW

And a military episode of 373 years ago. The lead and iron shot all come from Civil War sites. The iron ball from the leather-barrelled gun is top right on the crystal block.

The defenders fell back on the church of St Lawrence, a stone’s throw from the Museum. The attackers tossed in grenades, before storming the building. Colonel Richard Bolles led the defence, defying his men to surrender. With his death, however, they laid down their arms and over 800 were taken prisoner and marched off to Farnham.

Among the items on display is a small iron shot unearthed in Alton Churchyard, which must be from one of the leather-barrelled guns.  Other parts of the exhibition reflect on the careers of Waller and Sir Ralph Hopton  – friends before the war, but on opposing sides during the conflict – and there is the full sweep of the Heads and Tales timeline, from the Atrebates to our very own Elizabeth II.

Royal Blood; Heads & Tales – Allen Gallery, Alton, 16 July to 18 September

 

 

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