HUNDREDS of treasures from the golden age of Stonehenge went on permanent display this week for the first time.

The exhibition of 500 Neolithic objects, including 30 gold items, opened on Monday at the new Bronze Age galleries at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.

The galleries, funded by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Devizes Area Board and other sources, offer visitors the chance to see artefacts that have been mothballed for centuries because of a lack of space in the Long Street building.

Among the ancient treasures on permanent display for the first time are a beautifully decorated gold lozenge, a magnificent bronze dagger with a gold-covered haft, gold beads, necklaces, earrings, pendants and other items of gold jewellery.

The treasures of Bush Barrow, near Stonehenge, unearthed by William Cunnington and other archaeologists in the late 18th and early 19th century, are on display.

Specialist Bob Farrow has created a reconstruction of Cunnington’s excavation as well as recreating the entrance to the West Kennet Long Barrow and a hut in which Bronze Age people would have lived.

Articles excavated in the 1850s from the grave of the Roundway Archer – on Roundway Hill, close to where the Devizes Millennium White Horse is today – are also on show.

Modern techniques have shown that he would have been born and brought up in the local area, though many of the goods found in his grave would have come from much further afield.

Museum director David Dawson said: “The landscape was much more open in his time, 2500 to 2200 BC, so he would have been able to see Stonehenge and Silbury Hill from Roundway Hill.

“He would certainly have known about them and may even have been involved in their construction.”

For Mr Dawson, the opening of the new galleries is the fulfilment of his ambition.

He said: “That’s why I came to work here.

“I knew that the museum’s Bronze Age collection is internationally important and I wanted to get it on display.

“But this is not the end of it. It is just the first step in relaunching the museum.

“With these facilities we will be able to borrow objects from other museums and host touring exhibitions.”

The new high-security and humidity-controlled exhibition facility on the ground floor cost £750,000 to build and comes just as the new visitor centre at Stonehenge approaches completion at Airman’s Cross on the A360.

Mr Dawson said: “Devizes is mid-way between two of the world’s most important ancient monuments – the great prehistoric stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury. Visiting the Wiltshire Museum completes the experience of seeing these two iconic sites.”

Formore, visit www.visit museums and click on the link for Wiltshire Museum.