Skip to main content

Find Spot record MDR5449 - Roman silver lanx, Risley Park, Risley

Type and Period (1)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

"Risley Park - Large silver dish found in 1729 inscribed: Exsuperius episcopus ecclesiae B…ensi, but too worn to be preserved intact. The dish … is plainly Roman, and most probably Roman of the first century. But the inscription is mediaeval, and seems to refer to Exsuperius, first bishop of Bayeux (Baiocensis) who, perhaps, lived in the fifth century. In all probability the dish was brought to England during the early middle ages." (1) Stukeley visited Risley the year after the discovery and says that the plate was found on 9th June 1729 in Risley Park at a depth of 3 inches while ploughing up some fresh ground. The find-spot was on the side of a hill, facing east, close to Wood Hall, the 'motes' of which remained 'in a valley between the lodge (? Risley Lodge Farm, SK 455 368) and the hill where the plate was found'. [This would put it at about SK 448 366.] He gives the inscription as 'EXSUPERIUS EPISCOPUS ECLESIAE BOGIENSI DEDIT' and suggests that the plate was looted from the church of BOUGE in about 1421, given to Dale Abbey, and hidden at the dissolution. Of the condition he says 'nothing new remains entire but the middle part'. The plate was then in the possession of Lady Aston of Aston, Cheshire. The Grosvenor House Museum Chester have no knowledge of this find or of the disposal of the Aston Collection. The owner of the Aston Estate (Mr. Bryan Hervey Talbot) has no knowledge of the silver plate nor of the original Aston collection. The area SK 448 366 is under winter crop. Other than the adjacent homestead moat (SK 43 NE10) there are no surface indications of antiquity. The present location of the plate was not determined. (2, 3) The decorated Roman silver dish or lanx from Risley Park bearing a Christian inscription is probably the earliest find of late Roman silver plate from Britain of which we have a fairly detailed record. It was seriously damaged at the time of its discovery and was subsequently lost. A reconsideration of the lanx, quoting Stukeley's account in full as well as later correspondence, challenged the original idea that it had been given by a known bishop to a known Roman church in France and that it was imported into Britain in the Middle Ages. Rather, it was suggested that the lanx was a further example of the many fine pieces of Roman silverware which came into Britain in the 4th century and that it could tentatively be considered as part of the evidence for Christianity in late Roman Britain. (4) In 1991 the lanx was rediscovered when it was taken into a London antiquities gallery. Scientific examination revealed that it had been recast, probably in the 18th or 19th century, using moulds taken from the original and using the original silver. (5) The Risley Park lanx, discovered in 1729, is the first piece of Roman silver plate known to have been found in Britain. When found, the lanx was broken into pieces by the finders and distributed between them, but 26 fragments were collected together by 1754 and after the middle of the 19th century moulds were made from them. The original fragments were then probably melted down and used to cast the pieces, which were soldered together into a new dish. It takes the form of a rectangular silver dish with beaded rim and rectangular foot. The decoration, reported to have been gilded, is as follows: figured frieze, facing outwards, two sides with hunting scenes, two sides with pastoral scenes, divided by heads at the four corners; scene in the centre showing a wild boar hunt. On the back an inscription, parallel to one long side of the rectangular foot, scratched in vertical capitals: EXVPERIVS EPISCOPVS ECLESIAE BOGIENSI DEDIT [Chi-Rho] (Exuperius the bishop gave [this dish] to the Bogiensian church). Details of the beading on the rim suggest that the original was cast by a craftsman accustomed to working in pewter. Pewter plate appears to have been made only in Britain, which suggests the lanx was made there also. Comparative vessels in pottery and silver give a probable date of the second half of the 4th century. The lanx was made originally as a piece of table plate, to be used in dining. On its back, however, it has an inscription stating that Bishop Exuperius gave the dish to a church. Most interpretations of the personal name and of the name of the church in the inscription have favoured one out of a range of possible identifications in France. There is, however, no reason why the personal name and the place name should not occur in Britain. The 'ecclesia Bogiensis' may therefore be the episcopal church of Exuperius at Bogiacum or Boiana, the estate of Bogius. If so, the estate and bishopric should probably be sought first in the vicinity of the find-place. (6) Following its rediscovery, the Risley Lanx was put on display by the British Museum for several years but was removed when the nature of its authenticity became suspect. It was later determined to be a complete fabrication, made by fraudsters from silver that included actual Roman silver coins that had been melted down. The fate of the original, genuine, Risley Park Lanx is unknown. (7)

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Haverfield, F. 1905. 'Romano-British Derbyshire', in Victoria County History, Derbyshire, Vol 1. p 261.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Stukeley, W. 1736. An account of a Large Silver Plate found in Derbyshire, 1729.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: F1 FDC 16-FEB-60.
  • <4> Article in serial: Johns, C. 1981. 'The Risley Park silver lanx: a lost antiquity from Roman Britain', The Antiquaries Journal. Vol. 61, pp 53-72, illust..
  • <5> Article in serial: Keys, D. 1991. 'In pursuit of Bogius', Minerva. pp 10-15.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Hartley, E, Hawkes, J, Henig, M & Mee, F (eds). 2006. Exhibition Catalogue: Constantine the Great Exhibition, Yorkshire Museum. pp223-224, illust..
  • <7> *Internet Web Site: Wikipedia - free online encyclopedia.



Grid reference SK 448 366 (point) (Centre)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR1134

Please contact the HER for details.

External Links (0)

Record last edited

Jun 28 2012 9:52AM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.