The Wenlock jug – Luton Museums Service must raise £750,000.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Having caught the eye of New York's Metropolitan Museum at a price of £750,000, it was subject to an export stop from the Department of Culture on the grounds that it is of outstanding significance for the study of bronze working in medieval England.

The Met are not the only museum interested in adding this prize to their holdings. The initial stop expired in December but has been extended until March 19 because a serious intention to raise funds has emerged.

Also stepping up for the plate are Luton Museum Services in Bedfordshire, whose interest stems from the fact that two of the candidates for Lord Wenlok have close associations with the town in the late 14th or early 15th century. William Wenlock, Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, King's Chapel Westminster and Archdeacon of Rochester, was given a third of the manor of Luton by Edward III in 1373 and was master of the town's medieval Farley Hospital. His nephew John had extensive estates in Bedfordshire and built Someries Castle and the Wenlock Chantry Chapel in St Mary's Luton.

Apart from the Luton connection there is much potential for research into the piece as a rare example of medieval metalwork with a maker's mark.

Luton Museums Service manager Maggie Appleton, who has been co-ordinating their bid, said: "Clearly if we were fortunate enough to secure the jug we would like it to be on display, but we would work with the experts in the field to research it."

Luton has until March 19 to raise the £750,000 required to keep the jug in the UK, and with an annual acquisition fund of just £2500 per year, they will be heavily reliant on donations. So far they have contributions of £15,000 from the Friends of the Museums and £137,500 from the Art Fund, plus a couple of donations from individual benefactors, but they are pinning their main hopes on the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which will make a decision at the end of this month.