The reports on The Druidstone Ring
prepared by the National Museum of Wales
The first report on The Druidstone Ring by The National Museum of Wales was written early in 2018; its content is reproduced here:
Medieval copper alloy signet ring of late 15th to early 16thcentury date.
The cast and incised gilt signet ring is complete and is comparatively massive (with an overall length of 32.5mm, an overall width of 31.1mm and a weight of 28.7g).
The internal diameter of the ring is sub-circular and is also large (of 23.9mm x 22.0mm) suggesting it was worn over a glove. The basal part of the band has a wide midrib (6.4mm wide, giving a thickness of 4.4mm thick), leaving a flange each side (2.1mm wide, where the band is 1.8mm thick).
At the shoulders the midrib is decorated with three grooved arcs forming crescents. The lower edges of the top and bottom crescents are serrated, while the edge of the central crescent has rounded curtain lower with internal punched dots. Above the crescents on each shoulder are three flowers surmounted on stalks, defined by flanking grooves. The central flower is five-petalled, while the side flowers are four-petalled. The field above the flower heads is cross-hatched, probably simply decorative but possibly representing pointed flowers.
The bezel is oval (with an overall width of 14.7mm and a thickness of 6.3mm) with a grooved beaded border, inside of which is the seal (14.0mm long and 13.2mm wide).
The central device is a harp and floral sprigs decorate the bezel above and below the harp. Each side of the harp are the letters, P to the left (as reversed) and W to the right.
The harp may represent the Arms of Ireland, recorded as early as the 13th century but perhaps more commonly seen in England during the 15th and 16th centuries, notably on coins. It is also possible that the harp signifies that the owner was a musician of the Bardic tradition. The letters PW are likely to be the initials of the owner. The surface has much of the gilding surviving, particularly in the recessed areas and above the corroded dark-brown patina.
The finger-ring is a substantial example of a late medieval signet ring and in form can be paralleled with an example found in gold at Raglan in Monmouthshire.
Towards the end of 2018 The National Museum of Wales considered The Druidstone Ring in greater detail and produced a revised report – which came to some very different conclusions. The content of the revised report is reproduced here:
Late medieval copper-alloy signet ring
Circumstances of discovery:
Found by Mr Mark Hackman while searching with a metal detector in March 2017 at Michaelstone-y-Fedw, Newport (ST 2447 8332) (Druidstone Road/Coalpit Lane; PAS Entry no. 017457; NMWPA 2018).
Large cast and incised gilt copper-alloy signet ring. The bezel is oval with a single cable border, inside of which is the seal (14.0mm long and 13.2mm wide). The central device is a four-stringed harp above floral sprigs, with a pentafoil on leafed stem above the harp, which is flanked by the letters ‘p’ and ‘ur’ in the Black Letter style of letter forms.
The shoulders are decorated with a central pentafoil flower flanked by quatrefoil flowers, all on stems with leaves. The fields above the flower heads are cross-hatched, possibly for enamel or niello.
The band has a D-shaped cross section, the centre being flanked by plain borders.
Overall height 32.8mm; external depth 31.1mm; internal diameter 23.9mm x 22.0mm; bezel width 14 x 15.6mm; bezel thickness 6.3mm; band thickness at base 4.9mm; band width at base 9.9mm; plain borders 2.1mm wide.
Much of the gilding is missing, the recessed areas only retaining traces; corroded dark-brown patina to copper-alloy.
The large internal diameter of the hoop suggests that it was worn over a large finger or fine glove. The harp may represent the Arms of Ireland, recorded as early as the thirteenth century but perhaps more commonly seen in England during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, notably on coins. The right hand initial flanking the harp was thought initially to be a W, but there appears to be a turn to the right at the base of the right hand ascender, and a projection to the right near the top of the ascender, suggesting a lower case ‘r’ in Black Letter. This would make the reading on this side of the harp ‘ur’, suggesting the word pur (‘pure’, ‘true’, ‘genuine’, ‘clear’ or (Welsh) ‘faithful’). Consequently the letters may not represent the initials of the owner or Christian names.
The Black Letter letter forms indicate a date of manufacture between about 1450 and about 1514. Stylistically it shares characteristics with the Raglan ring (c. 1450-69), while the pentafoil flower on the shoulders is similar to flower heads on a late fifteenth-century ring in the Victoria and Albert Museum, also with a Black Letter inscription, and similar ‘flanged borders’ to the hoop (Taylor 1978, no. 348).
Adopting a bardic name as a pseudonym was a tradition widely used in Wales and the other Celtic areas of Cornwall and Brittany. Should the harp be representative of the owner’s harp-playing excellence, then it would be encouragingly consistent that the harper in question might adopt, and feature on his seal, a pseudonym which alluded to the ‘purity’ of his skills – a quality which would have been much revered at the time.
In referencing the signet ring in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (shown alongside), whilst on the one hand a consistency can be observed (for example, the style of engraving of the pentafoil flowers) on the other hand there is an obvious visual conflict between the soft and relatively sophisticated letter forms of the V&A example and the severe Black Letter letter forms of The Druidstone Ring. Judged on the flowers the two rings could be from similar periods; judged on the letter forms, the two rings do seem to belong to distinctly different ages.