Fig.1 My hoard in Treasure Hunting Magazine

Fig.2 The coins still stacked

This article was first published in the January 1987 edition of Treasure Hunting Magazine.

During late 1985 I was searching an area close to a site that had been prolific for finds of all ages and these included some artefacts and coins of the Saxon period. The total area that I was searching was fairly small but was highly minerlised and heavily infested with iron junk, so bad in fact that I eventually decided to lower my discrimination levels to try and remove some of this overburden in the hope this would make future detecting easier. That decision proved to be an extremely wise one for some time later when I was sorting through the scrap at home I noticed what appeared to be just a small rusty mass but on flaking away some of the corrosion and washing the object under the tap I was amazed to see the edges of coins appearing from beneath the encrustation.

Later that day I met my detecting partner and between us we managed to separate five of the coins and could now see that there were in fact nine coins stacked up in a neat pile. They were soon identified as Saxon pennies of the Lunette type but to which king they belonged we were still uncertain about due to the heavy corrosion. As my partner had the services of an X-ray analysis computer at work he was able to use this to determine the corrosion products present and these read - iron oxide, sulphur oxide, silver oxide, calcium oxide and soluble salts. We cleaned one of the coins which was then readily identifiable as a Lunette type penny of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex (871-899). The amount of corrosion present can be determined by noting the weight before conservation of this coin was 54 grains and afterwards only 13.4 grains.

hoard3 image
Fig.3 The coins before conservation - at top-left stack of 4 coins

A phone call to Mike Bonser a numismatist well known in detecting circles produced the advice to take the coins as soon as possible to the Museum Headquarters in Lincoln as they were obviously in urgent need of conservation. On Monday 9th December 1985 I delivered them to Lincoln and on the following Wednesday they were transferred to the British Museum for conservation and formal identification. Apart from making a statement to the Coroner there then followed a long period of silence until in mid-July 1986 I was summoned to the Coroner's office as the British Museum Report had been prepared. By this time I was eagerly awaiting a Treasure Trove inquest but due to a delay in the coins being returned from the British Museum this could not be arranged until Monday, 13 October 1986. After a very brief hearing the Coroner brought in a verdict of not Treasure Trove and the coins were returned to me. This was a great surprise as the British Museum Report had made a case for deliberate concealment and had recommended a declaration of Treasure Trove.

For Lincolnshire this hoard, though small, is historically very important as there have only been three previously reported Saxon coin hoards from the whole of the county. This is the first to be found with a metal detector, and is the earliest numismatically dated hoard of Saxon pennies found as yet in Lincolnshire, pre-dating the Tetney hoard by approximately twenty five years. It is also unusual in that there have been no previous hoards in Lincolnshire of pennies that were all struck in the southeast. The hoard, which has been given a deposition date of c873 consists of two pennies of Burgred of Mercia, one penny of Aethelred I of Wessex, and six pennies of Alfred of Wessex. All are of the same Lunette type (see fig.7 for full details). Marion Archibald points out in her British Museum report on the hoard that the Alfred (of Wessex) coins are present in a higher proportion than one would expect in a hoard from the historic kingdom of Mercia and when used with other evidence it is important not to underestimate the extent of the circulation of coins even in this early period.

Fig.4 obverse and reverse of coins 1-3

These coins were obviously in some sort of container that has rotted away or they would not have been so neatly stacked when found. The fact that they were completely surrounded by iron corrosion would also suggest to me that all the coins have been recovered. As Miss Archibald points out in her report, nine pennies at this time in the 9th century was a considerable sum of money, equivalent in today’s terms to £100 and would have been the value of two sheep. The question of whether these coins were deliberately hidden with a view to subsequent recovery, or were simply a casual loss, will possibly always remain an open one.

Troubled times are usually reflected in an increase of hoarding and as a consequence an increase in the instances of hoards that have not been recovered by their owners. In this respect the 870s was a very troubled time in Lindsey due to the incursions of the Danes, which had started, we believe, in 841. In 872 a great Danish Viking army wintered at Torksey and in the following year (the suggested date of deposition of my hoard), Mercia was subdued and Burgred driven into exile. As Mark Blackburn points out, the settlement of Lindsey may by then have already begun, the agreement to partition eastern Mercia in 877 being merely a formal recognition of an already substantial occupation by the Danes. Blackburn also notes the remarkable absence of coin hoards from Lincolnshire during this time of conquest and settlement, the more so when one compares the York total of seven hoards deposited c 865-875. Despite the suggestion that there may have been a paucity of coinage available at this time in Lincolnshire we do at least now have one coin hoard as evidence to weigh against those in other areas.

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Fig.5 obverse and reverse of coins 4-6

The productive site that lies close to the hoard spot has produced metalwork of the Anglian period as well as metalwork of the 9th-11th centuries, some of which is influenced by Viking art styles. Are we to interpret this along with the coin hoard as a record of the forceful takeover of the land by the Danes, or are the coins a casual loss and the Viking-style artefacts merely the result of a gradual absorption of the Danes and their culture into the Anglian population? Future finds may help us to answer these questions in a meaningful way.

In conclusion I would like to thank Mike Bonser and Mark Blackburn for their advice and assistance, the British Museum for their Report and the conservation of the coins, and the Coroner for his helpful direction of the legal processes. I would like to keep the hoard intact if possible and will first of all offer it to the Lincoln Museum for acquisition. Other parties obviously have an interest and of course dues must be paid to the landowner. I will inform readers in due course of the outcome of any negotiations to decide the future of the coins.

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Fig.6 obverse and reverse of coins 7-9

Fig.7 list of coins with details

POSTSCRIPT – 8th June, 2004.
The coins were sold to Lincolnshire County Council and were placed on display in the coin room of the Usher Gallery shortly after purchase. Since that time they have disappeared from view but a new Museum is presently being built in Lincoln and I hope that in due course these coins will be back on display again.


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