Museum paid property developer £50,000 for tombstone

Not treasure trove, then. I don’t know the ins and outs of the law on Roman items found in the ground, but this tombstone evidently belonged to the property developer who had bought the land, and Lancaster Museum had to persuade him not to sell it to America. Anyhow, it’s on show now, and judging from the pics it’s a good ‘un.

Published Date: 16 October 2008
IN November 2005 an unrivalled piece of Lancaster’s Roman history was unearthed during a routine excavation in Aldcliffe Road.
On Wednesday, nearly three years after it was found, the iconic tombstone was officially unveiled in Lancaster City Museum where queues of people wishing to view it formed.

Edmund Southworth, Lancashire County Council museums officer, said: “In my museum career I have managed to save probably four things for the nation. This is probably the one I can feel most proud of.

“It was not given to the museum, we had to buy it, raise money and persuade the owner that it should not go to America.

“I took several phone calls saying there would be a van coming later that day to take it away if we did not have the money to buy it.
“Today marks a glorious future for the tombstone and the Romans in Lancaster.”

The tombstone, dating from 100 AD, was found on land owned by property developer Chris Tudor Whelan during excavations by the Greater Manchester Archaeology Unit. He received more than £50,000 for it.

Described by scholars as unique and of significant archaeological importance, the massive stone – almost six feet high and weighing about 1,500lbs – depicts a quartermaster of the ala Augusta riding with the
severed head of a barbarian enemy in his hand.

Following its discovery, the county council and the Museums Service, together with Lancaster City Council, secured funding from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Purchase Grant Fund, Haverfield Bequest (supporting research on Roman Britain), and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Conservators have since had to make the tombstone, which was in 23 pieces, suitable for permanent public display not far from the site where it lay for almost 2,000 years.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, entry is free.
For further details visit or call 01524 64637.

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