Public appeal to save the UK’s largest discovery of Saxon coins

  |  Published: Nov 2nd 2016
coins

A public appeal to raise the final amount needed to acquire an important national treasure is being launched.

In a major coup for the Bucks County Museum, it has announced that it has raised the overwhelming majority of the cost of acquiring the Lenborough Hoard for the nation. But more is still needed!

200 coins from the hoard of over 5000 will be on display at the Museum from November 19th to help draw attention to the campaign.

Buckinghamshire County Museum has been awarded £1million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) , £250,000 from The Art Fund and £20k from the Headley Trust to help purchase a rare collection of Saxon coins - the largest be discovered in the UK.

The money from NHMF and The Art Fund launches the Museum’s final appeal for £1.5m to secure and display this unique piece of our national heritage. So far, fundraising brings together English, Norwegian and Danish interests in a cultural coalition across the North Sea. 

Significance

The find which comprises of 5,248 silver coins is  one of the largest hoards from the Anglo-Saxon period ever found in Britain. The coins come from the reigns of Ethelred the Unready, and Cnut the Great (sometimes known as Canute), and were buried around 1030-1035 AD, wrapped in a sheet of lead.

Because of the huge number of coins involved, the find will shed new light on circulation of coinage and the trading economy of the Saxons in England around the time of Cnut’s  accession as king of the whole of England in 1016 – 1000 years ago.  

Gareth Williams, Curator of Early Medieval Coins at the British Museum, said ‘This is the largest new hoard that I have worked on in over twenty years in the job, and one of the most interesting. There are actually two hoards in one, collected maybe fifteen years apart, and the hoard offers unique sights into the changing economy of England under Cnut.’

Discovery

Discovered at Lenborough in north Buckinghamshire during a routine metal detecting rally on December 23rd 2014, the hoard was reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). The PAS is a national scheme for the voluntary recording of single finds of archaeological interest, but is often the first point of contact for finds of Treasure. Under the Treasure Act (1996), any discovery of objects containing 10% or more of gold or silver, and more than 300 years old must be reported as potential Treasure.  The hoard was sent to the British Museum for cleaning and recording, and was declared to be Treasure by HM Coroner for Buckinghamshire.

Fundraising

After study, identifying  over 60 different mints from all over England, the hoard was valued by independent assessors and a reward of £1.35m set for payment to the landowner and detectorist. After a 6 month campaign the County Museum has raised the huge majority of this.

Subject to our raising the full balance required £50,000 has been given in local, charity and online donations, and the Museum has now been pledged £1,000,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £20k by the HeadleyTrust and £250,000 from the Art Fund

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of NHMF, said:  “The name "Canute" is widely known but there is much to learn about our history when he was king. This once buried treasure has the potential to unearth real insights into this period. That is what makes the Lenborough Hoard so valuable.  Quite simply, we at the National Heritage Memorial Fund  had to help in raising the funds to save it.”

To finish the job £200k is still needed towards the reward money and to allow for its display in a new gallery that will be dedicated to the Saxon period in Bucks.  

Richard de Peyer, Director of the County Museum said  “ Without the accession of Cnut the Great  as King of the whole of England in 1016 the story of our island  would have been very different. The funding pledges we have had make  this a story that the museum can now tell with conviction. Funds from the public and from national grant sources have brought the purchase of 4000 coins from Cnut’s reign and 1000 more from his ‘Unready’ predecessor Aethelred within striking distance !”

What happens next

Sponsors and donors are still being sought and a reception sponsored by the Norwegian Embassy is to be held in London next month at which collectors and business leaders will be invited to help to close the gap.

Proposals have been made by the Norwegian mint for a book and a sponsored tour of Scandinavia, where Cnut was king of Denmark and of Norway. Business interests from across Scandinavia have been invited to share in this amazing discovery.

When the future of the hoard has been secured, displays will be mounted at the Buckingham Old Gaol Museum and at Milton Keynes Museum as well as at the Buckinghamshire County Museum.  Small displays of coins from the hoard are also planned at Buckingham Old gaol and the the Buckinghamshire County Museum during the final stages of fundraising.

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