British Collections by Geographical Regions:

Northern Ireland

The collections at the Ashmolean Museum contain material from Northern Ireland particularly items collected by Sir John Evans.

Being a Director of the family paper making business (Dickinsons), Sir John Evans made many business trips and travelled to many places, including Ireland. He is known to have visited the Irish branch of Dickinsons' located near Belfast. He could have been visiting Ballyclare Paper Mill, which at the time, the late nineteenth century, was the biggest paper mill in Ireland. The company was formed in 1875 and was titled 'The North of Ireland Paper Mills Company Limited' (it closed in the 1950s).

Whilst on these business trips to the Dickinsons' branches and agents he collected and purchased many objects. He is documented as having visited prehistoric sites whilst staying at Belfast, one of them being the shores of Lough Neagh in 1861 from where he collected stone implements. Further visits increased his collections and in 1867 Evans read a paper to the Antiquaries on his finds.

Evans corresponded with various people in Ireland who kept him informed of discoveries, one of them being William Arthurs of Ballymena. Evans is also documented as having obtained copper and stone celts (axes) and arrowheads from a rag and bone dealer in Ballymena and similar objects from William Arthurs. He gave 6 pence for small objects and from 2 shillings 6 pence up to five shellings for the celts.

gold ring money or hair ring from Ireland

Gold ring money from Ballyboley, N. Ireland (Evans Collection) (AN1927.2949)

Click to enlarge

 (Click to enlarge)


Further Information

Evans, J., Time and Chance, The Story of Arthur Evans and his Forebears (Longmans, 1943)

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Christine Edbury
January 2012