'Hoard belongs to Mercian kingdom'
MERCIAN nationalists have claimed ownership of the Staffordshire Hoard for the people of Stoke-on-Trent, Cheshire and the West Midlands.
The Acting Witan of Mercia wants to create a separate nation state, made up of the 20 shires, including Staffordshire and Cheshire, which formed the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.
GOING FOR GOLD: Queues outside the exhibition in Hanley. Top, the museum's Deb Klemperer and Jeff Kent, centre, and Philip Snow of the Acting Witan. .
They claim the Crown and UK Government has no legal authority over the region's citizens, because William the Conqueror and his Norman army took Mercia by force in 1066.
Yesterday Jeff Kent, convener of the Acting Witan, or government, of Mercia, visited the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, in Hanley, to claim ownership of the Staffordshire Hoard, on behalf of the people of Mercia.
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He told hundreds of people queuing to see the treasure: "In accordance with The Constitution of Mercia, the law of the land, the Hoard belongs in Staffordshire, where it was found, and the Acting Witan hereby declares that this fabulous Mercian treasure will remain in the shire, freely accessible to all the citizens of the region and future generations in perpetuity."
The Acting Witan, in Anglo-Saxon times a council of wise men which advised and often selected the king, now says it has "authorised" the Potteries Museum to keep the Hoard.
Under UK law, the Hoard belongs to the Crown. A funding campaign is underway to raise the £3.3 million needed to buy the treasure back on behalf of both Birmingham Museum and the Potteries Museum.
Mr Kent, aged 58, of Cotes Heath, a Stoke-on-Trent College lecturer, said: "The Hoard was found in Staffordshire and it should remain in Staffordshire. It is the property of Mercia.
"The UK Government does not uphold the law in Mercia, although it does have the power. Mercia is an independent state.
"If you go back prior to 1066, Mercia was its own kingdom. It was forcibly taken by foreign invaders.
"We have authorised the Potteries Museum to keep it. We have not decided properly where it should go."
Phillip Snow is the acting Sheriff of Staffordshire, and a member of the Acting Witan of Mercia.
Mr Snow, aged 64, of Betley, said: "We believe Mercia should be free to govern itself.
"The Acting Witan of Mercia has twice written to the monarch of the United Kingdom, requiring that the Hoard be handed over to Mercia."
The Mercian Constitutional Convention reaffirmed and declared the legal independence of Mercia, in May 2003, in Victoria Square, Birmingham.
Since then, the Acting Witan of Mercia has met regularly and has written to the Prime Minister and the Queen to warn taxes could not be legitimately collected in the region and to demand Mercian autonomy.
John Hodges, aged 69, of Stone, queued for three hours to see the Hoard. He said: "It should certainly stay in Staffordshire."
Ray Hickson, aged 51, of Audley, added: "I think the Hoard should belong to the people."
Deb Klemperer, principle collections officer at the museum, said: "We are happy to welcome the Witan.
"I'm very interested in the Witan, but we are not associated with them and we have to obey the law, so we will not be keeping the Hoard."