Ian Richardson, who is the treasure registrar at the British Museum, explained how they came across the hoard of coins, “They were out turning up the soil and all of a sudden these coins popped out of the ground … miraculously.” “It is quite a shocking find for them and very interesting for us.”
Some of them were from the time of Edward IV all the way down to Henry VIII with the majority of them containing an image of Archangel Michael killing a dragon on the back of the coins. But then in 1526, Henry VIII made changes to the coins such as their weight as well as creating a new five-shilling gold coin that replaced the angel ones. “Not only does he change denominations, he has this very strange decision of putting his wife’s initial on the coin,” said Barrie Cook who is a curator of medieval and early modern coins at the museum.
Some of the coins represented three of Henry VIII’s wives: Catherine of Aragon (K), Anne Boleyn (A) and Jane Seymour (I). According Cook, the women’s “initials on gold crowns was ‘a very strange decision’ and, numismatically, very interesting.”
The hoard was believed to have been hidden in the ground around the year 1540, probably by someone who had a decent amount of money (like a member of the clergy or a rich merchant) as the value of the coins equaled £14,000 in today’s money (a little over $18,600 in US dollars). “That was a great deal of money, certainly more than the annual wages of the average person,” Cook stated.
John Naylor, who is a coin expert from the Ashmolean Museum, weighed in by noting, “You have this period in the late 1530s and 1540s where you have the Dissolution of the Monasteries and we do know that some churches did try to hide their wealth, hoping they would be able to keep it in the long term. It is an important hoard … You don’t get these big gold hoards very often from this period.” (Pictures of the coins can be seen here.)
Richardson noted that many people have been making significant and unexpected archaeological discoveries since so many of them are spending more time at home due to the pandemic. As a matter of fact, over 47,000 discoveries have been made in Britain so far this year with 6,251 of those being found while under the full lockdown which occurred between March and May.