Thanks to the generous donations from our Museum Friends and Supporters, together with the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Headley Trust we have raised the funds to purchase this hoard. Thank you all. The coins are still in the British Museum, awaiting collection when it is safe to do so.
The Halesworth and District Museum is pleased to say that it has recently purchased (May 2020) a hoard of Silver Roman Denarii discovered in Cookley. We have yet to collect them from the British Museum, which we will do once normal times resume.
There are 58 silver coins and two forgeries in this hoard, which cost £4,500. We have been fortunate to receive funding from the V&A Grant Fund and the Headley Trust of £3,500 but further donations to help the Museum cover the cost of this very important addition to its collections will be welcome.
A brief description of the hoard and of some example coins follows. If you want a more detailed description see the Report for H M Coroner – Treasure Number: 2018T677:
The ‘Near Cookley’ hoard was discovered on the 19th of August 2018 by a metal detectorist on a cultivated field with the landowner’s permission. He initially discovered twelve silver denarii, and on returning to the field the next day dug out another 48 from some depth – apparently around 18 inches. The initial finds were spread over ‘a few yards’, but those recovered deeper appear to have been unfortunately dug out of an archaeological context. No pottery sherds were observed by the finder, and thus it seems probable that the coins were buried in an organic container that had since disintegrated. The closely packed nature of the coins is demonstrable by the base-metal traces that have leached to the surfaces of the coins during burial and mutually encrusted/stained each other. Having recovered what appeared to be all the coins, the finder reported the hoard on the 22nd of August and transported it to the SCCAS offices on the 5th of September, where they were identified and a report written.
One of the interesting things about this collection of coins is that two thirds of the coins were minted before 27BC, way before the invasion of Britain by the Emperor Claudius in 43AD. Why did they end up in Cookley? Are they an example of trade between Roman and late Iron Age Britain or is there another explanation?
The youngest coin found (coin 1) is of Nero and dates to AD 60-61 and therefore gives some indication of when the hoard was buried or hidden. The significance of the date is that it is precisely at the time of the Iceni Boudica revolt against Roman rule. Was the hoard buried by a worried Roman, or loot hidden by an Iceni during the revolt? The oldest coin from the collection (coin 59) is from the Republican era, dated 155 BC. We know that Roman coins were often in circulation for over 200 years, but this hoard seems to have a high proportion of very old, well circulated coins. All the coins are silver denarii, there are no lower value coins. It is also curious that the hoard lacks any coins that were minted in the twenty or so years before the lone Nero coin (i.e. no coins of Claudius, the emperor before Nero). A significant number of the post-27 BC coins were minted in Lugdunum (Lyon in France) which was the Roman capital of Gaul, which may give some indication of where in the Empire the original owner came from, although there were no Roman coins minted in Britain till centuries after the invasion.
It is tempting to hypothesise that these coins belonged to a Roman or Gaulish trader who came over to Britain in the years immediately after the Claudian invasion with a bag of old silver coins to do business in the new colony. Sadly they then became a victim of the Boudican revolt.
Another possibility in the light of other hoards of old Roman and Iron age coins being found within miles of this hoard is that they were family savings of recent settlers, looted (or hidden) from/in an undiscovered early villa or small Roman settlement somewhere in the immediate local area that was somehow caught up in the Boudican revolt. They could of course also be hidden loot taken by an Iceni warrior returning home from the sacking of towns like Colchester and, for whatever reason, never reclaimed.