Detectorists ‘hit jackpot’ in finding huge hoard of Norman coins worth up to £5m

Historic items found by metal detectorists in Somerset show some of earliest signs of tax evasion in Britain

Sherna Noah,Craig Simpson
Wednesday 28 August 2019 18:28
Comments
The rare coins were found by metal detectorists in a Somerset flea market
The rare coins were found by metal detectorists in a Somerset flea market

Two metal detectorists have told of their shock at unearthing a hoard of coins depicting William the Conqueror thought to be worth over £5m.

Adam Staples, 43, and Lisa Grace, 42, found the 2,528 silver coins in a Somerset field.

The hoard shines fresh light on the aftermath of the Norman invasion and shows evidence of early tax evasion in Britain.

The pair were training friends to use their metal detectors on a weekend trip when they made the discovery at an undisclosed location.

“We went down for a weekend and hit the jackpot,” Mr Staples said.

“We didn’t leave the site until we thought we’d got all the coins.

“We had a massive thunder and rainstorm. We were soaking wet by the time we finished.”

Ms Grace joked: “It was like the gods didn’t want to disturb the hoard ... We were wet through but it really didn’t seem to matter.”

Coins from around 1066 depicting both the defeated King Harold II as well as triumphant conqueror William I were found in a field in the Chew Valley.

The pair, from Derby, first started their hobby around 16 years ago and have uncovered valuable items before, but nothing quite like this.

Describing the moment the first coin was revealed, Mr Staples said: “It went from one coin, three coins, 30 coins and gradually progressed. It took about four, five hours to dig it up.”

Mr Staples, who works providing auction consultations, said life for the pair would “totally change” if, as expected, the hoard is declared treasure by a coroner.

“We will be able to buy our own property, it’s freedom,” he said, but added that they had not been metal detecting for “financial gain”.

While it has not yet been officially valued, Mr Staples said the coins could be worth more than £5m – a sum which would be shared with the rest of the group and the landowner.

He said of the find, made earlier this year: “We found them on the Saturday. They stayed in the bucket, uncounted, with the soil remains to try to get an archaeologist out to try and examine them.

“When that didn’t happen by Monday we thought we better do something about this. We counted them out and drove them to the British Museum.

“They opened the gates for us and cleared the crowds!”

Battle of Hastings anniversary: Thousands attend re-enactment

Coins in the 1,000-year-old hoard show signs of being illicitly tampered with, sporting mixed designs on either side.

Experts say this is evidence that the person striking the coins was avoiding paying a fee to obtain an up-to-date design.

Gareth Williams, a curator at the British Museum, said that making false coinage risked a severe penalty – having a hand cut off – at the time.

“We can see from these coins that that wasn’t a deterrent,” he added.

Evidence showed that whoever buried the hoard was “involved in some way in the Battle of Hastings”, he said.

The hoard would have bought a flock of more than 500 sheep and so would have belonged to “someone relatively wealthy”.

That person “may or not” have come to an unpleasant end, he said.

“It may even be that it was buried under a tree to mark the spot and the tree blows down in the storm and the person can’t find it there,” he added.

The hoard is the largest Norman treasure find since 1833 and features examples of how French-speaking officials had struggled to get a grip on Old English, which is imperfectly stamped onto some of the silver coins.

Mr Williams said: “This is an extremely significant find for our understanding of the impact of the Norman Conquest of 1066.

“The coins help us understand how changes under Norman rule impacted on society as a whole.”

PA

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in