Richard Hattatt – the Brooch Man

30th April 2017 — 16 Comments

Aesica Brooch of the early Roman period – Image courtesy of the UKDFD

Younger detectorists will probably only know Richard Hattatt by a reference to him when they come to record their find on a database, but his contribution to the hobby cannot be underestimated.

Richard died in 1992, at the age of 82. He’d had a lifetime devotion and study and collection of antiquities, but his interest finally focused on brooches and, with the help of detectorists, he rapidly built an important collection. However, he was rather disappointed with the lack of easily obtainable reference books and this promoted him to write his own.

Ten years before his death, he published, at his own expense, Ancient and Romano-British Brooches. By 1984 he concentrated all his efforts on brooches. His second book, Iron Age and Roman Brooches was published in 1985, followed by Brooches of Antiquity in 1987.

All his books are entirely illustrated with his own illustrations and the final one Ancient Brooches and Other Artefacts, published in 1989, contained drawings of his entire collection. This esoteric catalogue, ‘the Bible of fibula brooch collecting’, is the one used by many dealers to ID all their brooch and fibula sales, but went out of print until Oxbow books reprinted. It is available for about £18.00 and lower if you look carefully and prepared to buy second-hand.

A published Romano-British T-shaped bronze brooch with an unusual serrated crest, measuring 38 mm/1.5 ins. in length. Complete with pin and in an excellent state of preservation, c. 1st-2nd Century A.D. Ex Richard Hattatt Collection (his accession no. 1953) and published as no. 394 in Hattatt, R., 1985, Iron Age and Roman Brooches, Oxbow Books, Oxford, p. 93, Fig. 38, and described on p. 91, where he describes the type as ‘very rare’. Richard Hattat’s original collection label attached which says ‘no exact parallel traced’. Courtesy AncientRelics

Richard decided that he could do no more and disposed of his collection. many choice pieces found a home at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the Devizes Museum. Some of the rest went to dealers and the balance to Sotheby’s saleroom in 1992.

Interesting Facts About Richard Hattatt

After a public school education, specialising in science, he joined the family firm of jam makers. The company closed down after the war and he then started an advertising company, which ran successfully until his retirement in the seventies.

In 1973 he started a collection of Greek vases and an hitherto unknown Greek vase painter of the 6th century BC was named after him. Following an exhibition at the Ashmolean, which included the ‘Hattatt’ painter’s vase, he generously donated it to the museum.

He wrote several learned articles on his vases and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He sold his entire collection in 1982 … and started to collect brooches. from The Searcher magazine January 1993

One of my Roman brooches recorded on the UKDFD – see record No. 20825  REFERENCE: Cf. Richard Hattatt, Iron Age and Roman Brooches, No. 410.

Pictures by JW


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16 responses to Richard Hattatt – the Brooch Man

  1. A very prolific writer and dedicated researcher John.. He accomplished a great deal
    in his life.. and the collecting world is all the better for it.


  2. I discovered a brooch in my “junk” box and honestly had no idea what it was way back when.. On the other hand I have no idea about a lot of things….

  3. Everyday reading for me John, I don’t think a day goes by when I haven’t had one of these volumes in my hands.

  4. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 30th April 2017 at 3:53 AM

    How fascinating to have that many brooches, that you would be able to make books out of them.

    I wonder how difficult it was to part with such a collection, or was their satisfaction after achieving so much for so many?

  5. Another good post, thanks John.

    Iam sure that this will make many more folks aware of just what Richard Hattatt gave to us and our Nation in general with his expertise on the subject matter.

  6. I’ve seen his name mentioned numerous times over the years, now j know something about the man. A very interesting article John Cheers.

  7. Thank you Mr Winter you expand my knowledge post by post thanks Lez (Crewesader)

  8. Richard Hattatt has probably inspired many people to start a collection of their own.

    He must have spent a phenomenal amount of time sketching for insertion into his books. Time well spent and a truly dedicated man.

    Another great blog John.

  9. Really interesting John, like many others his name was well known to me, but little else.

    You have filled in many of the blanks, for which I thank you.

  10. Thanks John. I often plough through his “Visual Catalogue” (wishing I could afford the “complete” books). A very clever, and talented, man – and an interesting article about him. Thanks again.

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