The Didcot Iron Age Mirror

Leslie Webster, from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), has described this rare and beautiful mirror as, “…an outstanding example of Celtic art in the later Iron Age… particularly unusual in the way that its delicately incised ornament challenges some of the conventional design rules for the decoration of these high-status objects.” Now, unless some £30,000 can be raised to buy the mirror for the Museum of Oxford, it risks being taken out of the country.

The Oxford Mail reports that the mirror was discovered near Didcot by a metal detectorist and has now been sold to an anonymous overseas buyer. Due to its historical importance however Culture Minister and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey has temporarily blocked its export to see if a buyer can be found in the UK. Vaizey is reported as saying, “The Didcot Mirror is a beautiful object dating from the Iron Age and would be a tremendous addition to any one of our many outstanding national, regional and local museums. I hope the export bar I’ve placed allows time for a UK buyer to come forward and secure it for the nation.”

Below we reported on Cambodia’s campaign to have seven precious stone statues returned to their country from the United States. Today we report on the possible loss to the nation of this rare British Iron Age mirror – an object that could very well be ‘exported’ to an overseas buyer if funds cannot be raised to keep it in Britain. This surely cannot be right. The Japanese have a system of designating important works of art as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. Other countries have similar designations and such objects are not only prohibited from being exported but must also be conserved and preserved to the highest standards. Is it not time for Britain to have similar standards to protect its cultural property?

Those interested in securing the mirror for the nation should call 0845 300 6200 for further information. See also the fund raising event organised by Dumnonika at the Museum of Oxford on Saturday, 12 July 2014. For more on Celtic mirrors Celtic may be of interest.