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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 13:41 GMT
Mystery of missing treasure
The Great Dish. Copywright: British Museum
The Great Dish is kept at the British Museum

A precious silver Roman goblet may have been taken from an historic hoard of treasure before it was unveiled to the public.

The revelations are the latest chapter in the story of the Mildenhall Treasure - the largest hoard of Roman silver ever found in Britain.

For more than 50 years scholars have speculated as to whether the treasure was really discovered in a field in Suffolk, as was claimed, or whether it was moved to the site from Italy or Africa.

Now a 94-year-old from Mildenhall, who helped clean the items soon after they were discovered, has said that one of the items in the treasure is missing.

An artists impression of the missing goblet by Viviene Dring
An artists impression of the missing goblet

The hoard was said to have been found by ploughman Gordon Butcher, on land in West Row, near Mildenhall, in 1942.

Mr Butcher took it to his employer Syd Ford, a collector of antiquities, but the find was not made public until 1946.

On Monday, Dr Colin Dring, of the Mildenhall Museum, told BBC News Online how Jack Thompson had often talked to Dr Dring about how he had cleaned the goblet.

Dr Dring said Mr Thompson only realised the goblet that he had handled was missing when he was taken to see the set of replicas at the Mildenhall Museum.

It was of a different design to the other two goblets

Dr Colin Dring

"I had always assumed he was talking about one of the two goblets in the treasure," he said.

"We brought it down for him to see piece by piece, including the two goblets, and he said, 'where's the one I worked on.' And it wasn't there."

Mr Thompson told him the missing silver goblet was five inches high with intricate decoration and four legs.

'Goblet different'

"It was of a different design to the other two goblets," said Dr Dring.

Mr Thompson said: "This goblet was different from all the others.

"It had four legs with a ring in the middle which held the legs in position.

"I would like it to be found to prove my words are right - but I know what I'm talking about."

Dr Dring said the goblet did not appear on any lists made of the finds at the time, and was not part of the treasure trove inquest shortly afterwards.

It is thought the goblet referred to by Mr Thompson must have disappeared before the hoard was assigned to the British Museum.

Great Dish

Dr Dring said Mr Ford, who is no longer alive, kept the treasure for about four years before it became public.

A number of theories have sprung up around the discovery of the Mildenhall Treasure.

One suggests that the Mildenhall Treasure was smuggled in to the UK by United States servicemen returning from Italy or Africa.

The treasure includes the Great Dish - which is regarded as one of the finest items of Roman silver ever found.

The story of the treasure will feature in the BBC2 programme Meet The Ancestors - Our Top Ten Treasures on Wednesday at 2100 GMT.


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See also:

04 Dec 02 | England
06 Nov 02 | England
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