Beds, Herts & Bucks

Buckinghamshire ancient coin hoard find 'unprecedented'

Buckinghamshire hoard Image copyright Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club
Image caption More than 5,000 ancient coins were found in a Buckinghamshire field

More than 5,000 ancient coins found in a Buckinghamshire field are an "unprecedented" find, the county's keeper of archaeology has said.

A member of the Weekend Wanderers Metal Detecting Club discovered the 11th Century coins buried in a field near Aylesbury four days before Christmas.

Brett Thorn from Bucks County Museum said it was the largest hoard of Saxon coins ever found in the county and the second largest in the UK.

"It just doesn't happen," he said.

Paul Coleman, from Southampton, was taking part in a dig in the Padbury area on 21 December when he found the coins from the late Anglo Saxon, early Norman period, depicting the heads of kings Ethelred the Unready and Canute.

Image copyright Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club
Image caption The 11th Century coins had been left in a "sealed" lead container
Image caption Paul Coleman said he saw the disc "reflecting the sky"
Image copyright Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club
Image caption The heads of Ethelred the Unready and Canute can be seen on the coins

"I saw one shiny disk," he told BBC News.

"It was reflecting in the sky and I immediately knew it was a coin, you just know. So I bent down to pick the coin up and as I could focus down in the hole I could see lots of circular shapes behind it."

Club spokesman Peter Welch said the coins, which were buried in a lead bucket, had "looked almost uncirculated, like they were straight from a mint".

Mr Thorn said the find was "massive" and the largest find of Saxon coins since 1840 when about 7,000 were unearthed in Cuerdale, near Preston in Lancashire.

'Very significant'

"I was absolutely astounded," he said.

"To give an idea of scale, people normally find between five and 20 [Saxon] coins.

"We have about 4,000 Roman coins in the Bucks County Museum and only 30 Saxon ones, so it is very significant both nationally and for the county, it is just unprecedented."

Image copyright Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club
Image caption Club members gathered in excitement at the first signs of the hoard in the ground
Image copyright Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club
Image caption A coroner will now decide if the hoard is "treasure"

The coins, which feature at least two kings, will be cleaned and examined by the British Museum to establish which mint they came from.

"Until they are cleaned and dated [to find the oldest] we can't begin to find out why they were collected or why they were carefully wrapped and very definitely hidden," said Mr Thorn.

A coroner must rule if they are "treasure" under the Treasure Act.

Mr Thorn could not comment on their estimated value but said if the museum decided, in conjunction with the British Museum, to acquire them "it would be a major fundraising effort".

The largest UK hoard of Anglo Saxon treasure was about 1,600 items, including helmet parts and processional crosses.

It was found in a Staffordshire field in July 2009 and valued at £3.285m.

Image copyright Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club
Image caption The hoard has been taken to the British Museum

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