Warwickshire Museum recently acquired this small but stunning object, which was found near Middleton in North Warwickshire by a metal detectorist. It has been dated to the 15th century and is thought to be the lid to a small diamond-shaped box, which would probably have been worn on a chain around the neck.
St George and the dragon
The surface of the object is engraved with the figure of St George who is in the act of killing a dragon. It is 34mm high, 28mm across and less than 1mm thick. The box may have been a reliquary, containing a piece of cloth or stone associated with the saint as a religious relic. By the 15th century, St George was established as the patron saint of England, as well as one who helped those in distress.
As the lid was made of gold, so the rest of the reliquary is likely to have been gold, possibly decorated with more engraving, or even semi-precious stones. The detail and quality of the engraving suggests that the reliquary may have belonged to a wealthy townsperson. Illustrations from the Medieval period often show such objects being worn by women.
The Middleton Reliquary Lid was acquired by Warwickshire Museum through the Treasure Act and with the assistance of the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Headley Trust. Recorded for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
The Middleton reliquary lid is similar to the Middleham Jewel from Yorkshire.