Forest of Galtres Society

A Lucky Find of Great Antiquity!

September 20, 2008

To begin the winter season in September 2008, Forest of Galtres Society members were treated to a real story of a tantalising discovery which was made in early 2007. Liz Andrews-Wilson, Finds Liaison Officer at York Museums Trust, came to tell our Society about the Harrogate Hoard.

The find was made by metal detectorists with permission from the landowner, and their find has turned out to be one of significant interest and, as yet, undetermined value. One of the two men out in a field, a father and son, got a strong signal. He interpreted it as metal, and they investigated and found a quantity of lead scraps. Even with these removed the signal continued, so they dug deeper and found an object rather like a cistern ball valve in size and shape. Removing it from the ground with care, they found more metallic bits and pieces close by.

What were they to do next? Well, this is the point at which Liz’s job is so important, for the Treasure process requires the reporting of discoveries to a Finds Liaison Officer and it was her colleague Amy Cooper who saw the object the next day. On the subsequent day the find was on its way to the British Museum, so significant it had been deemed by museum staff.

The object was X-rayed, revealing a dense chunk of metal in a copper alloy bowl of almost spherical shape. The next task was to empty the bowl in a controlled way. Fortunately, the two detectorists had resisted doing that themselves, which is always a great temptation but which destroys important archaeological information. Slowly excavating the field soil from the pot was so exciting. A gold armband, a gold bracelet, silver ingots, a metal chain and 617 coins, mostly pennies, emerged. Incredible that so much material had been packed into the little bowl! The coins gave a date range of 880 – 927, so the deposit was made after 928 AD. Yorkshire was clearly well connected in those times, for Viking coins, Saxon coins and even a dirham were in the bowl. The bowl could then be re-examined using X-rays. Six beautiful decorative beasts emerged from the corroded surface. Liz Andrews-Wilson told us so much about the hoard and its new name of Vale of York Hoard and how its value is now given as over £1,000,000. The hoard has been purchased by York Museums Trust with The British Museum and will be put on display at both museums. The correct actions of the men who found it means that this very early Frankish bowl (very similar to the Halton Moor bowl dated to 1020 AD – this is in the Preston Museum) is safe and not at risk from the plough or from others with greedy motives.

What a story! The Treasure process and the Portable Antiquities Scheme has enabled so many metal and stone and pottery artefacts to be recorded and studied and has truly widened knowledge of early history for the whole of England and Wales.

Funded by the National Lottery through Awards for All