Put a ring on it

I had pre-booked rail tickets for a return trip to London last Tuesday. After much to-ing and fro-ing l had agreed on a time and date for a trip to the House of Commons to meet up for coffee with our MP’s press officer and a quick tour of the place.

Needless to say, events overtook that appointment, but l was determined not to throw away my GWR seat and went instead to visit my favourite museum – the V&A.

I was on a mission to find one particular object on display – and one of the tiniest too. Let me explain.

Before coming to Bath, eleven years ago, we lived in the historic Devon town of Totnes where l got involved with the town’s Elizabethan House museum.

Amongst the artifacts on display there, l was fascinated by the collection’s tiniest treasure – the Lee ring.

It is one of two matching 17th-century gold and painted-enameled ‘thank-you’ tokens presented – by the town – to the daughters of a local merchant who had stumped up the cash to build a trading place for local businessmen like him.

The beautiful object has the tiny figures of local Devon merchants carefully painted in miniature around its band. 

The Totnes Museum didn’t know where the other ring might be but – with incredible luck and a bit of detective work – l managed to track it down to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Curators there had no idea of the ring’s provenance or, indeed, knew that it was one of a pair.

With some pride, l witnessed the V & A giving permission for the two rings to be temporarily reunited – for the first time in 400 years – and displayed in the Totnes Museum for the season. It was an historic reunion covered by the local press and tv.

After that, the V&A took their ring back to London where l found it on display – amongst many other items of finger jewelry.

While the text of the information card relating to the ring mentions Totnes, l was disappointed that it didn’t actually say it was one of a pair and that the other one could be viewed in Totnes.

However, when l went online – https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O118834/ring-unknown/ – to search through the museum’s collections, l was pleased to find a full account of the ring’s history.

It is just one of the museum’s 1.25 million objects that can be accessed via the internet!

1 Comment

  1. Great story. Pity it can’t be returned to Totnes on permanent loan. I don’t suppose it gets much appreciation in London!

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