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Hetty Gleave discusses the largest coin hoard of the post-conquest period found near Somerset

  • August 29, 2019
  • By Hetty Gleave, Partner

A discovery by metal detectors of 2,528 silver coins dating to the period immediately after the Norman Conquest was announced at a press conference yesterday at the British Museum.

The coins were discovered in a ploughed field in Somerset and were immediately reported to the local Coroner. Their importance is significant as they shed new light on the post-conquest period immediately after the Norman Invasion and include coins depicting Harold Godwinson (“Harold II”) (1066), the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England and his successor, William the Conqueror (1066 – 1087), the first Norman King of England.

The Chew Valley Hoard (as it has become known) also contained first known examples of a “mule” between Harold and William. Mules are coins that show designs of different coin types on either side. They are seen as an early example of tax evasion as it enabled the “moneyer”, or person who issued the coin, to re use old coins rather than pay a fee to strike new coins with a new die representing a new monarch. This proves that coins were produced with Harold II name on them after William I had taken control and had established coinage of its own. It also includes a rare example of a mule of Harold’s predecessor, Edward to Confessor (1042 – 1066) and William I.

Historians are understandably excited as the hoard gives some insight into the impact of the Norman Conquest and the extent to which there was continuity or change following the coronation of William I.

Gareth Williams, Curator of Early Medieval Coinage at the British Museum, commented that while coins are often symbols of authority and power, they were, at the same time, “used on a regular basis by both rich and poor, so the coins help us understand how changes under Norman rule impacted on society as a whole”.

The hoard has not yet been declared treasure by a Coroner but if it is, the Roman Baths and Pump Room hope to acquire them for their collection, in which case they will come before the Treasure Valuation Committee who will recommend an open market valuation to the Secretary of State, which will then be paid to the finders and land owner as a reward.

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