A NEW exhibition exploring the Saxon heritage of a Purbeck town was opened on Good Friday.

The display at the Wareham Town Museum, which is based in the Town Hall, was officially opened by mayor Dina Adkins and local archaeologist Lilian Ladle MBE.

Among the exhibits is a replica of a Saxon sword based on remains found in the River Frome nearly a century ago.

Honorary curator Ben Buxton said: "This amazing replica sword is the centrepiece of the new display.

"Wareham was a very important Saxon town. It was the biggest town in Dorset, one of the biggest in the area. So the exhibition is really about Saxon Wareham and its walls.

"The sword is part of that. It's a really interesting piece.

"The museum shows the story of the town. It is a big new exhibition which we've been planning and fundraising for many years.

"Museum volunteers have been working hard to create a display the town can be proud of."

The original sword, which was owned by a member of the royal family or nobility of the Kingdom of Wessex, was discovered during the building of the South Bridge in 1927.

It still bears the name of its owner, although sadly too little is legible to identify him.

Unusually for a Saxon weapon the decorations are in the style of their long-term enemies the Vikings.

Wareham's Saxon heritage extends beyond the sword - its walls are the best preserved Saxon town defences in England while St Martin’s Church is the most complete church from the period in Dorset.

Also new for the volunteer-run museum this season is a model of a head of a dinosaur, to go with a picture already on display. The model of the Iguanodon head was made and donated by Dougal Dixon, a Wareham-based science writer and dinosaur specialist.

Visit www.wtm.org.uk and the museum's Facebook page for more information.