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Sandwich Magna Carta leaves Kent for Washington DC for Hawkwood International's touring show Magna Carta: Tyranny, Justice, Liberty


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For the first time since they were created 700 years ago, the £10 million Sandwich Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest have left Kent and gone overseas.

The documents from 1300 – discovered in 2015 in an archive scrapbook – now have a temporary home in Washington DC.

The Magna Carter and Charter of the Forest was discovered in Kent's archives.
The Magna Carter and Charter of the Forest was discovered in Kent's archives.

They are being exhibited as part of Hawkwood International's touring show Magna Carta: Tyranny, Justice, Liberty.

The Sandwich documents will be displayed along with the 1215 King's Writ, issued by King John at Runnymede, and its 1217 Magna Carta.

These documents are on loan from Hereford Cathedral.

The Magna Carta is considered the foundation of English common law.

Worldwide much of its importance lies in the interpretation of the clauses from which grew the right of the freedom of the individual, or habeas corpus.

The English translation
The English translation

It said: "No free man shall be arrested, imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, exiled or in any way victimised, or attacked except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land."

This right is most famously contained in the American Bill of Rights embodied in the constitution of the United States.

The Sandwich Magna Carta may well have directly influenced the events leading to American independence as it could have inspired the young Thomas Paine when he lived in the town in 1759.

The Sandwich edition was uncovered at the Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone in 2015 by Dr Mark Bateson.

It was dated 1300 by Prof Nicholas Vincent of the University of East Anglia who confirmed it belongs to the east Kent town, rich in medieval history and surviving architecture.

Tattered but valuable - the document is worth £10m.
Tattered but valuable - the document is worth £10m.

A campaign was launched that year to bring the Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest led to Sandwich by the town council and the Discovery Park, and was backed by KentOnline's sister paper the East Kent Mercury.

About £35,000 was pledged by Sandwich Tollbridge Fund to bring the document back to its rightful home.

In August, 2016, £100,000 was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to renovate the Guildhall Museum making it a world-class museum as part of a project called Sandwich History – Refreshed, Revised, Revisited – From Magna Carta to the 21st Century.

An exhibition was held at the Guildhall that September and merchandise was created and sold for the attraction.

That October a concert was held by medieval group Rough Musicke to raise funds for the project.

The exhibition at the Guildhall in September 2015
The exhibition at the Guildhall in September 2015

The new-look Sandwich Guildhall Museum was unveiled in May 2017 and visitors were able to view it behind glass.

It was shipped to Washington DC in June ahead of the start of the exhibition.

Beginning in the early 13th century in England, the show explores the medieval world.

It looks at the context of the creation of the Magna Carta and the personalities involved.

The second part of the exhibition takes in the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries, where the notion of the Magna Carta took on new meaning in the struggle for independence.

Rough Musicke medieval group performed to raise funds for the Magna Carta.
Rough Musicke medieval group performed to raise funds for the Magna Carta.

Alon Shulman, co-founder of Hawkwood International, said: “Magna Carta has played a direct role in overcoming tyranny around the world and across the ages, so it is apt that it is in the ‘land of the free’ that we will tell the story of Magna Carta from the thirteenth century to the present day.”

Chief curatorial officer at Museum of the Bible Jeff Kloha said: “We are honoured to bring such a monumental exhibit to Museum of the Bible.

"While the Magna Carta remains an imperfect document created by imperfect people, its influence on human rights, democracy and law is unparalleled. More than 800 years after its revision it continues to shape thinking on contemporary issues.”

The mayor of Sandwich Cllr Paul Graeme said: "As custodians of such important documents we are proud and delighted to be able to share these with a wider international audience.

"It also gives us the opportunity to ensure that these documents continue to receive the best possible conservation and care.

Some of the Merchandise sold at the Sandwich exhibition.
Some of the Merchandise sold at the Sandwich exhibition.

"The loan of these documents also gives us the rare opportunity to safeguard the future of the rest of the collection held within the Sandwich archives through the support and working relationship with Hawkwood international."

The income generated through loan fees and associated fundraising activity will be put towards the cost of the planned improvements to the archival facilities in The Guildhall.

The exhibition continues until January 2, 2022.

Read more: All the latest news from Sandwich

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