Coins dedicated to Henry VIII's wives discovered in garden

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11 December 2020
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A hoard of gold and silver coins, deposited in about 1540, were uncovered in a New Forest garden, including four coins from Henry VIII's reign, unusually featuring the initials of his wives Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.

In total, 63 gold coins and 1 silver coin of Edward IV through to Henry VIII were found in the New Forest area, Hampshire as the finders pulled out weeds in their garden. Ranging across nearly a century, dating from the late 15th to early 16th centuries, the hoard includes four coins from Henry VIII's reign, unusually featuring the initials of his wives Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.

The total value of the coins far exceeds the average annual wage in the Tudor period, but it is not yet clear whether this was a saving hoard which was regularly deposited into or if the coins were buried all at once.

Increase in discoveries during lockdown

The discovery is one of many to have taken place during lockdown, according to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). 

Michael Lewis, Head of Scheme and Treasure said: 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a boost in finds from back-gardens recorded with the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme, as well as an increase in digital recording, especially during 'full lockdown' (22 March to 13 May) when metal-detecting was prohibited and in the second 'lockdown' (from 5 November), with restrictions on how people exercise.

"During the first lockdown, 6,251 finds were recorded with the PAS and the records of 22,507 finds on the database were updated; so far this year (2020) over 47,000 finds have been recorded."

Fifty Krugerrand coins discovered

Another intriguing discovery was fifty modern South African Krugerrand 1oz solid gold coins found by chance in a back-garden in the Milton Keynes area; they were minted by the Rand Refinery in Germiston in the 1970s during the period of apartheid. How they ended up in Milton Keynes and why they were buried are, for the moment, a mystery. 

The Coroner, who will decide whether they are classed as 'Treasure' (under the historic crown right of treasure trove predating the current Treasure Act), will need to determine whether the original owner of the coins (or their heirs) are known. It is hoped that by making the find public, someone with information will come forward to either the Milton Keynes coroner or the British Museum.

The announcement comes as the British Museum launched the Portable Antiquities Scheme Annual Report for 2019, which details that 81,602 public finds were logged last year, an increase of over 10,000 on 2018's report.

Norfolk yielded the most finds, with 13% of this total, whilst Hampshire and Suffolk account for 7% each.

These finds have led to the discovery of exciting archaeological sites, ranging from a high-status Iron Age to Roman dispersed settlement with associated burials in Kent and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Lincolnshire, but also a more general picture of how people lived in the past, and where they settled and worked.


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Image: British Museum