The Ashmolean Museum has launched a public appeal to save a unique Viking hoard, valued at £1.35 million, from private collection. The museum now has until just 31 January 2017 to raise the funds it needs to ensure a permanent home for the locally discovered treasure.

Arm-rings, ingots, coins and cut-up pieces of silver and gold from the Watlington Hoard. © Trustees of the British Museum

Dating from the end of the 870s, the Watlington Hoard contains over 200 Anglo-Saxon coins, including many examples of previously rare coins of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex (871-899) and his less well-known contemporary, King Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-899). These coins provide new evidence of the relationship between the two kings, and can potentially shed light on how the once-great kingdom of Mercia came to be absorbed into the emerging kingdom of England by Alfred and his successors.

Thanks to a crucial grant of £1,102,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as additional support from the Friends and Patrons of the museum, the Ashmolean has been able to raise 80% of the funding it needs to acquire the treasure. However, the museum now has a limited period of time to raise the remaining funds, and is calling upon the public to help.

If the Ashmolean is unable to raise the full amount, it is highly likely that the hoard will be broken up into individual lots and sold at auction to private collectors. If this were to happen, it may never be seen in public again.

The Watlington Hoard has a natural home here at the Ashmolean.Dr Xa Sturgis

Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean, says: 'The Watlington Hoard has a natural home here at the Ashmolean and thanks to the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Friends and Patrons of the Museum and private individuals, we now have the rare chance to acquire it – for the local community where it was discovered and for all our visitors from across the world.'

If acquired by the Ashmolean, the hoard will go on permanent display alongside the famous Alfred Jewel, after being toured to museums around the county and surrounding region.