Curator's View: The Roman Hoodie
Retired senior curator Nick Wickenden on how this piece of national importance – which would now be classified as treasure – came to Chelmsford City Museum.
I knew when I first saw the photos of the Romano-British figurine, which we now call our ‘Hoodie’, that we had to have it for the museum collections. We were about to begin a major redisplay of Chelmsford Museum, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Chelmsford City Council, and I knew it should have pride of place in the Roman gallery. Unfortunately, because it is made of copper alloy, it did not count as treasure which would have meant we would have been offered it as a matter of course.
It had been found by a metal detectorist at Roxwell. It is a tiny 3D Roman statue, only 6.5cms high, of a native British archer. We know that because he is wearing a cloak like a duffel coat. This is an example of a Birrus Britannicus which is named in a Roman tax edict as one of the main exports from Britannia.
In 2017 the finder decided to sell it abroad, but the Secretary of State for the Department of Culture Media and Sport agreed the recommendation from the British Museum that its export should be barred, and Chelmsford Museum was given the opportunity to purchase it. I jumped at the chance! Even better, we were contacted by a well-wisher from America who donated the purchase price, as an example of goodwill between our two countries.
The Hoodie stars in the new Roman gallery which opened in July 2019. If you thought wearing a hoodie was something invented by teenagers in recent years, think again!