A Spotlight on the Beresford Collection : Rediscovering Treasures from the Prehistoric to the Medieval is an exhibition on Archbishop Beresford’s archaeological collection.

Marcus Gervais Beresford (1801–1885) was a keen collector of antiquities dating from the prehistoric to medieval times. His son bequeathed his father’s collection to the Library in 1886. The collection is on display, both in the original cabinets in the Long Room, and in No 5 Vicar’s Hill.

This exhibition shows an eclectic mixture of artefacts together with some new insights into their use.


Beresford was born in Dublin into an affluent family. He was ordained, and served, in the Church of Ireland, and was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1862.

He was a keen collector of antiquities dating from the prehistoric to medieval times.

His son, George de la Poer Beresford, bequeathed his father’s collection to the Library after the Archbishop’s death in 1885. The collection is on display, both in the original cabinets in the Long Room, and in No 5 Vicar’s Hill.

The collection is believed to be mostly Irish, but unfortunately Beresford’s catalogue is missing.  Former Curator of the Armagh County Museum, Roger Weatherup, researched the collection extensively and created an inventory for the collection.

This exhibition shows an eclectic mixture of artefacts together with some new insights into their use.


Early Axes

The following axe-heads date from the Neolithic, or Stone Age, through to Late Bronze Age.

Over time knowledge of the usefulness of metals improved and people began to cast bronze weapons and tools rather than carving them out of stone.


Axe-head Late Stone Age, circa 3000 BC Polished green olivine stone
Axe-head 
Late Stone Age, circa 3000 BC 
Polished green olivine stone
Flat axe-head Early Bronze Age, circa 2000 BC Bronze flat axe-head
Flat axe-head 
Early Bronze Age, circa 2000 BC 
Bronze flat axe-head
Palstave bronze axe-head Mid Bronze Age, circa 1500 BC
Palstave bronze axe-head 
Mid Bronze Age, circa 1500 BC
Socketed axe Late Bronze Age, circa 700 BC
Socketed axe 
Late Bronze Age, circa 700 BC 

The last two axes demonstrate advancements in the technique of producing axe-heads and attaching them to the wooden handle. 

Early Weapons and Tools


Bronze daggerEarly Bronze Age, circa 2000 BC
Bronze dagger
Early Bronze Age, circa 2000 BC

These were ideal for a stabbing motion. The wooden handle has not survived.
Bronze swordLate Bronze Age, circa 700 BC
Bronze sword
Late Bronze Age, circa 700 BC

This is a much sturdier weapon than the Early Bronze Age dagger.
Leaf-shaped flint arrowhead8000-2700 BC
Leaf-shaped flint arrowhead
8000-2700 BC

The earliest flint arrowheads in Ireland date to the Mesolithic period, when several tiny slivers of flint were inserted into a wooden shaft like a harpoon.

These were replaced in the Neolithic and Bronze Age when a single piece of flint acted as the arrowhead.
Tanged and barbed arrowheadBronze Age
Tanged and barbed arrowhead
Bronze Age

A good example of a Bronze Age arrowhead.
Flint flake
Flint flake

These are tools made by carefully chipping off pieces from a larger stone until the desired size is achieved. They could be extremely sharp.
Flint scraper
Flint scraper

Used for cleaning cattle and sheep hides.

Local Discoveries

The first three artefacts were found in 1863 in the townland of Botera, four miles west of Omagh. They were located in an old earthen fort in a bog.


Mace head of polished stoneEarly Bronze Age
Mace head of polished stone
Early Bronze Age

Stone drinking cup with handle Early Bronze Age
Stone drinking cup with handle 
Early Bronze Age

This type of cup is very rare.
Small stone vessel Early Bronze Age
Small stone vessel 
Early Bronze Age 

This is believed to be a crucible, used for molten metal.
Stone cannonball
Stone cannonball 

The cannon ball weighs just over 1kg. It was found by a Captain Robinson in the bed of the River Bush in Co. Antrim.

These cannonballs were used in warfare from the 1300s until about the 1600s and could cause devastating injuries. 

Equestrian Ornamentation

The details on the equestrian objects in this exhibition were kindly provided by Dr Rena Maguire, based on her PhD research of Irish Iron Age Equestrian Equipment.


Harness Y-PieceIron Age
Harness Y-Piece
Iron Age

It has been common practice in all cultures for the elite to bedeck their horses with decorative flourishes and Ireland in the Late Iron Age was no different. This Y-piece, found in County Clare, is part of a bridle which fitted under the chin.
Bronze cheeck-pieceCirca AD 1200
Bronze cheek-piece
Circa AD 1200

This is an ornate cheek-piece, the style reflecting earlier Hiberno-Scandinavian influences. The cheek piece stopped the mouthpiece from sliding within the mouth of the horse.
Bronze StirrupAD 1000-1300
Bronze Stirrup
AD 1000-1300

Stirrups spread to Europe from around AD 700, and were quickly adopted by cavalry, as they offered more balance for riders.
This stirrup may have been used by someone quite wealthy, judging by its decoration. 
Bronze Harness BellsAD 1400-1700
Bronze Harness Bells
AD 1400-1700

This is a collection of little ‘rumbler’ bells, or crotals. They were used on bridles, made to tinkle cheerfully as the horse and rider moved.

Sometimes these bells were attached to vehicles and clothing. Bells of this type were produced in alloys of tin, pewter and copper.
Bronze SpurAD 1400-1800
Bronze Spur
AD 1400-1800

This spur is likely dated AD 1400-1800, based on the shape and style. It was meant to goad the horse into moving faster. The simple terminals at each end strapped the metal object to a boot.


Music and Dress


TrumpetLate Bronze Age, circa 800 BC
Trumpet
Late Bronze Age, circa 800 BC

A familiar style of trumpet with the mouthpiece at the end.
TrumpetLate Bronze Age, circa 800 BC
Trumpet
Late Bronze Age, circa 800 BC

This type of trumpet is known as a ‘side blow’. It is believed a piece of wood or bone would have been placed in the side opening in order to produce a sound.

It is not known if these trumpets were used ceremonially or for communication, such as during battle.
Silver armletCirca AD 500
Silver armlet
Circa AD 500

Armlet, now in two pieces. This was found in Co. Cavan and is unique in Ireland as all other known examples are from Eastern Scotland.
Dress pinCirca 100 BC
Dress pins
Circa 100 BC

These two bronze dress pins would have been used to fasten clothes at the shoulder. 

Miscellaneous


ShoeCirca AD 800
Shoe
Circa AD 800

A shoe made from a single piece of leather, approximately a size seven in today’s sizes.
Maori ceremonial club
Maori ceremonial club

A ceremonial club, known as a mere, from New Zealand. Made from nephrite jade greenstone, the Maori people often gave them as gifts. They feature on the Kotahitanga flag of Maori unity.
Bellarmine or Bartmann jugCirca AD 1600
Bellarmine or Bartmann jug
Circa AD 1600

A Bellarmine or Bartmann jug most likely from Germany. These were often used to decant wine. The face may represent the Italian Cardinal Bellarmine (1542-1621) who disapproved of alcohol.

This exhibition was prepared by Kathleen McAlister, a Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies MA student at Ulster University, as part of her course placement.