Wenlok Jug stolen from Luton museum

Rare medieval jug stolen over weekend
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Rebecca Atkinson
The Wenlok Jug, a rare example of metalwork dating from the 15th century, has been stolen from a high-security display case at the Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton.  

The bronze medieval jug was subject to an export bar in 2005 after it went for auction at Sotheby's and was nearly sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Luton Museums Service raised the £750,000 needed to keep the jug in the UK through a national fundraising campaign and had financial support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the Headley Trust, the Friends of Luton Museums and others.

The jug, which is inscribed with the words My Lord Wenlock, was taken from its case on Saturday 12 May between 11pm and 11.25pm. It measures 31.5cm in height and weighs 6.1kgs.

Karen Perkins, director of Luton Museums, said: “This is an extremely serious and upsetting situation. The Wenlok Jug is a nationally significant medieval object, which came close to being lost to the UK when it went up for sale with Sotheby’s in May 2005.

“We are extremely proud that the Wenlok Jug is part of the collections at Stockwood Discovery Centre and are working extremely closely with police and investigators to do all we can to recover it.”

Bedfordshire Police have launched an investigation and have visited the scene to complete a forensic examination. The officer in charge of the investigation, detective constable Tracy Hall, said she is keen to speak to anyone who has information about the whereabouts of the jug or anyone who may have information about those responsible for the burglary.

The theft follows a number of high-profile burglaries from museums. In April, two Chinese artifacts were stolen from Durham University’s Oriental Museum. The 18th-century jade bowl and a Dehua porcelain figurine were later recovered and four men were charged with the break-in.

Also last month, 18 Chinese artworks were stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge after four people broke into the museum.

Other thefts this year include stone-age axes from the Yorkshire Museum, a number of Lord Nelson artefacts from Norwich Castle Museum, and two statues of Buddha from Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

At the same time, museums have been forced to remove some objects from display because of a spate of rhino horn thefts.

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