Gardener finds 15th century gold coins while pulling weeds

Gold coins dating from the late 15th century were discovered by someone weeding their garden in Hampshire, as the pandemic-enforced lockdowns led to a rise in amateur finds.

More than 47,000 discoveries were registered with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), including a Roman furniture fitting and a suspected medieval forgery of a bishop’s seal matrix.

The project reported 6,251 finds recorded during the first lockdown, when metal detecting was prohibited and enthusiasts started looking for treasure closer to home.

The report said 63 gold coins and one silver coin thought to have been deposited around 1540 were found in the New Forest area of Hampshire.

The finders had been pulling weeds out of their garden, the report said.

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 British Museum said.

The total value of the coins far exceeds the average annual wage in the Tudor period, according to experts.

A collection of 50 gold coins from apartheid-era South Africa was discovered in a Milton Keynes garden.

The Krugerrand 1oz coins were minted by the Rand Refinery in Germiston in the 1970s, according to a PAS report.

How they ended up in Milton Keynes is a mystery and a coroner will need to determine whether the original owner of the coins – or the heirs – are known.

The British Museum said it hopes a public appeal will lead to someone coming forward with information.

A copper-alloy Roman furniture fitting, dating from around AD 43–200, was found in Old Basing, Hampshire.

It is decorated with what experts describe as the “remarkably well-preserved face” of the god Oceanus and includes “intricate” seaweed fronds framing the god’s face, beard and moustache.

In Dursley, Gloucestershire, a lead-alloy medieval seal matrix in the name of David, Bishop of St Andrews was discovered.

The pointed-oval matrix shows the bishop, identified as 13th century clergyman David de Bernham, standing in his vestments, with a crozier in his left hand.

The inscription in Latin reads ‘David, God’s messenger, bishop of St Andrews’.

High-status seals are usually made of copper-alloy or even silver, experts said, suggesting the matrix is a contemporary forgery.

Under the Treasure Act 1996, finders have to report potential treasure to the local coroner.

The British Museum also announced 81,602 archaeological finds were recorded in 2019, an increase of more than 10,000 on the previous year and bringing the total on the PAS database to well over 1.5 million objects.

Michael Lewis, head of PAS and treasure at the British Museum, said: “Even at this time, through the Covid-19 pandemic, our team of Finds Liaison Officers have continued to reach-out to metal-detectorists and others to ensure finds, important for understanding Britain’s past, are not lost but instead recorded for posterity.”