Category Archive 'Metal Detectors'

22 Nov 2019

New Hoard Found in Hereford

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One of two “Emperor” coins.

Too bad that the metal detectors got greedy and fell afoul of the authorities. The Guardian has pictures and the story.

On a sunny day in June 2015 amateur metal detectorists George Powell and Layton Davies were hunting for treasure in fields at a remote spot in Herefordshire.

The pair had done their research carefully and were focusing on a promising area just north of Leominster, close to high land and a wood with intriguing regal names – Kings Hall Hill and Kings Hall Covert.

But in their wildest dreams they could not have imagined what they were about to find when the alarm on one of their detectors sounded and they began to dig.

Powell and Davies unearthed a hoard hidden more than 1,000 years ago, almost certainly by a Viking warrior who was part of an army that retreated into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia after being defeated by Alfred the Great in 878.

There was gold jewellery including a chunky ring, an arm bracelet in the shape of a serpent and a small crystal ball held by thin strips of gold that would have been worn as a pendant. Beneath the gold were silver ingots and an estimated 300 silver coins.

The law is clear: such finds should be reported to the local coroner within 14 days and failure to do so risks an unlimited fine and up to three months in prison. Any reward may be split between the finder, land owner and land occupier.

Powell and Davies, experienced detectorists from south Wales, chose a different route. Two days later they went to a Cardiff antiques centre called the Pumping Station and showed some examples of their find to coin dealer Paul Wells. He immediately knew they were very special.

The crystal ball pendant turned out to be the oldest item, probably dating from the 5th or 6th century, while the ring and arm bracelet are thought to be 9th- century. They were described as priceless in court. Nothing like the arm bracelet has ever been seen by modern man before.

But if anything, the coins turned out to be even more significant. Among them were extremely rare “two emperor” coins depicting two Anglo-Saxon rulers: King Alfred of Wessex and Ceolwulf II of Mercia. They are important because they give a fresh glimpse of how Mercia and Wessex were ruled in the 9th century at about the time England was morphing into a single united kingdom.

Still, the pair did not contact the authorities. Instead Powell got in touch with another treasure hunter, Simon Wicks from East Sussex, and two weeks after the find he presented himself at upmarket coin auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb in Mayfair, central London.

Wicks put a selection of the coins found in Herefordshire, including a pair of the two emperors, in front of one its leading experts. The expert gasped when he saw the coins and suggested the two emperors could be worth £100,000 each.

Meanwhile, whispers that Powell and Davies had struck gold had begun to circulate and on 6 July – 33 days after their discovery – the Herefordshire finds liaison officer, Peter Reavill, contacted Powell and Davies and gently asked if they had anything to tell him about.
Powell initially replied with a firm denial but they eventually handed over the gold jewellery and an ingot. However, they insisted they had only found a couple of damaged coins that they did not need to declare.

But the net was closing in. Police visited Wells’ house and he showed them five coins from the hoard that had been stitched into his magnifying glass case. When he was arrested he said: “I knew it would come to this.”

RTWT


The rock crystal pendant.


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