An anonymous metal detectorist has officially uncovered England’s largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold coins in a field in Norfolk. Norwich Castle Museum now hope to acquire the “internationally significant” hoard of 131 coins and four gold objects.
The first coin emerged from the ground in 1991, but it was not until after 2014 that most of the hoard was detected. During an inquest at Norfolk Coroner’s Court this week, all the coins were deemed as part of the same ancient hoard and officially declared as treasure.
Tim Pestell, senior curator at Norwich Castle Museum, said that studying “the hoard and its find spot has the potential to unlock our understanding of early trade and exchange systems and the importance of west Norfolk to East Anglia’s ruling kings in the seventh century.”
It includes coins from the sixth and seventh century that were minted on the continent, since England had no gold coins of their own in this period. Most of them are known as Frankish tremisses. A gold bracteate (a type of stamped pendant) and a small gold bar were also amongst some of the precious objects found alongside the coins.
“It seems to have been built up by someone moving around the Merovingian kingdom,” explained Adrian Marsden, a Numismatist from the Norfolk Historic Environment Service. “And as it was found near an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, it may have been buried in a barrow (burial) and scattered by centuries of ploughing.” The vast hoard reflects the prosperity and continental relations enjoyed by the early Kingdom of East Anglia.
In the UK today, all discoveries of potential treasure must be reported within 14 days of discovery or identification; failure to do so is a criminal offence. Whilst the metal detectorist who found most of the hoard immediately notified the authorities, a police officer who uncovered another ten coins on the site attempted to sell them for £15,000. In 2017, David Cockle failed to inform the farmer and the coroner of his discovery, which resulted in a sentence of 16 months in prison. Two coins unearthed by Cockle still remain lost.
The hugely important Norfolk find surpasses the previous largest Anglo-Saxon hoard by 30 coins; in 1828, 101 coins were accidentally discovered on a family’s estate in Crondall, Hampshire. Perhaps the most well-known Anglo-Saxon hoard was made in a spectacular burial ship at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, which included a purse of 37 gold Frankish coins, three blank gold discs and two small gold ingots.