Greetings Fellow Mud-Botherers! We all love a hoard - whether it’s from the Bronze Age, or from the 20th Century, there’s something very special about finding a group of metal artefacts or coins. Some hoards represent accumulated wealth that was buried with the intention of reclamation, while others may have been interred as offerings to Gods or ancestors. Whatever the original reason for their burial, finding a hoard is almost invariably an extraordinary experience for the finder(s) and detectorists have discovered the lion’s share of Britain’s most significant metal detector hoards for the last 50 years, many of which now grace the halls of Britain’s museums.This blog can only accommodate 5 hoards - I wish I could include more, since every hoard has its own unique story and merits. But without further ado - and in no particular order (because I love them all), here are 5 stunning metal detector hoards from the British Isles. Enjoy.
1. The Staffordshire Hoard.
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest and most significant hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver artefacts yet found in the British Isles. It consists of almost 4,600 items and metal fragments, amounting to a total of 5.1 kg (11 lbs) of gold, 1.4 kg (3 lbs) of silver and some 3,500 pieces of garnet cloisonné jewellery. Found in 2009 by metal detector user Terry Herbert while detecting in a cultivated field near to Hammerwich in Staffordshire, England, the hoard dates to approximately 650-675 CE. The hoard is extraordinary for many reasons, among them the almost exclusive martial nature of the artefacts and the absence of coins or artefacts associated with female ownership. It was purchased jointly by Birmingham Museum and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for £3.285 million under the Treasure Act 1996.
2. The Hoxne Hoard.
The Hoxne Metal Detector Hoard is the largest hoard of late Roman gold and silver ever discovered in Britain and is also the largest collection of late Roman gold and silver coins ever found anywhere within the Roman Empire. It was found in Suffolk in 1992 by Eric Lawes, a detectorist searching for a tenant farmer’s lost hammer. The hoard consists of 14,865 gold, silver and bronze coins and approximately 200 items of silver tableware and gold jewellery. In 1993, the hoard was valued at £1.75 million by the Treasure Valuation Committee (TVC). The treasure was almost certainly interred by a wealthy family at the end of Roman rule in Britain c.410 CE, a time of great upheaval. The hoard was acquired by the British Museum in 1993 and has been on almost continuous display somewhere in Britain ever since.
3. The West Norfolk Merovingian Hoard.
The West Norfolk Metal Detector Hoard is the largest hoard of early mediaeval gold coins from the period ever recovered in Britain. It consists mainly of Frankish tremisses, but also contains 9 Byzantine solidi and 4 other gold objects. It was recovered by 2 detectorists between 2014 and 2020, one of whom recovered 10 coins and did not report his find, despite being a local police officer who was aware of the rules of the Treasure Act. The hoard was deposited c.600 CE and is broadly contemporaneous with the coins recovered from the Sutton Hoo burial. The presence of the 4 gold objects may imply that the person(s) who deposited the hoard might have regarded it in terms of bullion value, rather than face value of the coinage.
4. The Chew Valley Hoard.
The Chew Valley Hoard was recovered in Somerset in 2019 by 2 metal detectorists who are personal friends of mine, Adam Staples and Lisa Grace. It is one of the largest and arguably the most important collection of early Norman coins ever found in Britain. It was almost certainly interred shortly after the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and consists of more than 2,500 silver pennies, mainly of Harold II and William I. The collection is likely to contain some excessively rare or even unique coins, some from previously unrecorded mints, die combinations and/or mules. It is still awaiting a Coroner’s Inquest which will determine its status as Treasure and it has been suggested that the hoard may be valued at £5 million, making it one of Britain’s most valuable hoards of coins in monetary terms.
5. The Grouville (Jersey) Hoard.
The Grouville Hoard was discovered by metal detectorists Reg Mead and Richard Miles in Eastern Jersey and reported in 2012. It consists of more than 69,000 Iron Age and Roman coins, gold and silver artefacts and jewellery, including 11 gold torcs (or neck rings), making this the largest collection of these high status items so far recovered in Europe. The majority of the coins contained in the hoard are Iron Age coins, mainly from the Coriosolitae tribe of northern France, but some from other tribes too – like the Osismii, Redones and Baiocasses. The Coriosolite probably interred the hoard around 45 BCE during a period of great upheaval when the Gaulish tribes were under pressure from the invading Roman forces. This hoard is not without controversy - it was valued at £2 million by the TVC following a somewhat perfunctory examination, then valued at somewhere between £6 and £14 million by Liz Cottam and Chris Rudd and was eventually purchased by the Jersey government for £4.25 million.
Blog by Jon Adkin - Team JA