WANTAGE’S “crown jewels” could be raided to save money under plans put forward by the town council.

Wantage Town Council, which owns about 700 historic artefacts from the town, has approved an audit that will look at which items can be sold off or given away on loan.

The council made the decision due to problems finding the money to pay the £15,000 it costs each year to store the majority of the pieces at the county council’s Museum Resources Centre in Standlake.

Highlights of the collection include Roman coins and bowls, oil paintings from the town and money from Wantage bank.

The items belonged to the Vale and Downland Museum but were given to the council due to fears they could be taken by bailiffs if the museum ever ran into financial trouble.

Terry Fraser, chairman of the Vale and Downland Museum trustees, said: “The council has not contacted us and told us their plans, which is a shame because they know me very well.

“Appraising collections is something all museums have to do but the council needs to come and speak to me because it costs money to assess – you can’t just throw things in a bin.

“We have a lot of items because we have to keep changing the exhibitions. You need to rotate otherwise visitors wouldn’t come to the museum.”

Natasha Waldman, 33, of Harcourt Road, Wantage, said: “It would be a great shame to lose things important to the town’s heritage.

“I can understand it’s a balancing act, but residents should have been asked by the council what we wanted. Perhaps there are people who can find a use for the items.”

County, district and town councillor Jenny Hannaby said: “We don’t want to lose our history but this is a sensible thing to do.

“We have to pay exorbitant monies to house the artefacts and we should review what they are so storage space can be reduced.

“We need to preserve but in a sensible fashion. The costs have spiralled out of control and the number one aim is to keep the museum open.

“Lending these items or selling them to people who want them is the best option.”

Town council chairman Bryan Armitage added: “Lots of money is being spent storing the items and we thought it would be sensible to make sure all the things getting tender love and care merited it.

“We’ve not discussed how much we need to save.”

Among the collection is a pair of identical travelling pistols made by Bunce of Wantage in 1770, a trapeze artist toy made by German prisoners of war at Manor Farm, Wantage, an 1860s’ dress, and given to a local girl, and a cannon ball believed to have been fired in Wantage in the Civil War.