‘When I saw the first few coins I was really excited because I knew I had found a hoard, however the excitement grew and grew as the size and importance of the find became apparent’ said Paul Coleman, who has struck gold… well silver really.
During the launch of the Treasure Annual Report 2012 by Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture at the British Museum, the largest Anglo Saxon coin hoard found since the Treasure Act began was announced.
Around 5200 Anglo-Saxon silver pennies, and two cut half pennies, of kings Æthelred II (r.978-1016) and Cnut (r.1016-35) were found within a lead parcel for safe keeping buried in the ground in the now tiny village of Lenborough in the county of Buckinghamshire, in south-east England on 21st December, 2014.
The way they were hidden has helped to keep the coins in good condition for a thousand years and today this gleaming ‘million dollar hoard’ has gone on show at the British Museum in Room 2, where a case has been dedicated to displaying recent finds recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme or reported Treasure.
This allows interesting and important discoveries to be seen in London before they are acquired by local museums.
The ‘Lenborough Hoard’ was found nearby the site of a Norman manor house dating 1000 AD to 1199 AD formerly held by the Bishop of Bayeaux in the reign of Henry II (1133-1189), a medieval windmill and a deserted medieval village.
Increasingly finders and landowners have waived their right to a reward, enabling museums all over England to acquire Treasure hoards at reduced, or no cost.
Public philanthropy at its best, demonstrating that ‘treasure hunters’ have a genuine interest in their cultural heritage, and are not just interested in archaeology for personal gain.
Armed with a metal detector anyone can be involved, as long as they take guidance from locally appointed officials and follow guidelines and instructions from Finds Liaison Officers put in place to keep finds safe.
The Lenborough coin Agnus Dei silver penny has as part of its design replaced the image of the king with the Lamb of God.This consciously religious image was part of a wider program of trying to make the English more ‘godly’, in the hope of winning divine intercession against the Vikings, sometimes seen as God’s punishment on the English for their lack of Christian piety.
Chair of Buckinghamshire County Museum Trustees Bob Sutcliffe, said “This is an incredible find for Buckinghamshire, and a unique opportunity for us to learn more about the origins of Buckinghamshire in Anglo-Saxon times. It would be fantastic to be able to show people that we have nationally important finds being discovered here,” said Bob, and the trustees are now waiting for their slice of history to be valued.
Buckinghamshire derives from its Anglo Saxon origin ‘Bucca’s Home’ referring to a prominent Anglo-Saxon landowner in the kingdom of Mercia (585-919).
Its coat of arms features a white swan in chains, dating back to the time when they were bred for the ‘king’s pleasure’.
These days it’s best known as the location of Bletchley Park, where they cracked the Enigma Code during World War II.
Under the Treasure Act 1996 there is a legal obligation for finders to report Treasure.
However since the advent of the Act the number of finds reported has increased fivefold from 201 cases in 1998 (the first full year of the Act) to 993 in 2013, and 1008 in 2014.
The administration of the Treasure process is undertaken at the British Museum.
This work involves the preparation of Treasure cases for coroners’ inquests, providing the secretariat for the Treasure Valuation Committee, and handling disclaimed cases and the payment of rewards.
Of the 990 finds reported Treasure in 2012, 368 were acquired by 100 local museums, so they can be displayed to the public close to where the items were discovered.
These include the Bedale, North Yorkshire Hoard of Viking jewellery, weaponry and ingots (2012 T373; YORYM-CEE620) acquired by York Museums Trust.
The area surrounding Lenborough has a rich history and glorious scenery with beech trees covering almost half the county.
Many defining events have happened in the gentle slopes of the Chiltern hills or the Vale of Aylesbury, where the River Great Ouse runs, especially during the Roman and Celtic periods.
The county remains much as it was in the Anglo-Saxon period, when it was an important political arena during the reign of the Tudors.
The English Civil war was reputedly started in mid Bucks by politician John Hampden.
He was one of the five men who challenged the authority of King Charles I and lit the spark that led to his beheading and the English ‘civil war’.
Mr Sutcliffe continued…
…”Someone in the now tiny village of Lenborough had stashed a massive amount of money, almost 1,000 years ago, and we want to know who, and why!”
We’re awaiting the official declaration of Treasure and final valuation, before we decide if we are going to try and acquire this hoard – fundraising for such an important find would be a major project for our recently formed Bucks County Museum Trust, but it will give us the chance to try and involve the public on a new scale, and get them really excited about their heritage.”
If declared Treasure such finds may be acquired by museums, with preference going to the local museum.
Discovered on a metal-detecting rally, and recovered under the guidance of the local Finds Liaison Office the find will reveal a great deal about monetary circulation in late Anglo-Saxon England. It will also no doubt spur on treasure hunters.
Ros Tyrrell, the FLO who was in charge of the excavation, was spot on when she said “now I know a little of what Egyptologist Howard Carter must have felt, when he first looked into the tomb of Tutankhamen.”’
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014