Third time lucky
It took three visits to secure permission to search this farm. The farmowner softened his stance on metal detecting on his land that had not been ploughed since the war and so a dig was planned for July 1999.
The deceptively cool morning had by 10.00am filtered away heralding the start of a scorching hot day much promised by the BBC. Our regular club members duly arrived, driving the dusty track in through yellowing fields. Heading for the rear of the dairy farm, all parked tidily on the short cut pasture eagerly anticipating a great day out. They were not going to be disappointed!
It seemed from the off that people were digging plenty of targets yet these non ferrous hits were a profusion of milk bottle tops blown over the field from the bottling plant at the farm. People moved away from the troublesome areas, venturing through the gate leading to the lower fields out of sight from the parking area..
'A HOARD OF COINS'
Red faced and out of breath, a lovely lady called Phyliss Duffield hurriedly returned to find Pete, excitedly tugging at his sleeve, ‘You had better come and give my husband Ted a hand as he is guarding a hoard of coins.’ Initial thoughts were that this was another windup so Pete was slow to take notice. Phyliss, not a lady who gives in easily, persisted in getting him over to the back fields to take a look. Ted and a few others were there on the left hand field busy searching.
Dougie Valverde was there too, eyes keenly lit. It was obvious by his expression that he was the finder!
Dougie’s shaking hand revealed a coin similar to the awesome Roman follis below. The condition of this coin screamed ‘hoard coin’ but the for sure give away was that wherever he placed his search coil there were targets everywhere!
The coins of Prestwood A date from 31 BC to AD 220.
This is just one of the stragglers that was found in a follow up dig so was part of the treasure found a week earlier.
Emperor Elagabalus, AD 218-222
The coins from Prestwood ‘B’ are all Folles. A follis is the singular coin with the plural being Folles. This hoard was much bigger than the silver one in the next field and the official tally was 735 folles included 438 examples from the London Mint including some very scarce types, including two unlisted coins.
The thick hazel hedge split the two fields. The only diggers there were Dougie who was excitedly digging up many coins plus Ted & Phyliss & a couple of others who were helping him. Strangely there were no other club members about until a voice called through the hedge that divides the two fields. ‘Whats happening here then Pete?’ He was a detectorist but I didn't know his name at the time so he may have been a new member. I enthusiastically replied, ‘It's a hoard of Roman bronze coins!’ He retorted ‘No mate, they're all silver.’ I argued back, ‘Err, no, I have actually seen them, they are without doubt bronze coins.’
Again, the chap in the hedge chipped in with, ‘Hey, I don't know what you are looking at but they are digging a whole load of silver coins on this side of the hedge!’
Entering the adjacent grass field, the fervent gathering of club members left no doubt in Pete's mind that this guy had been right all along and that an unprecedented second hoard of Roman coins had been found. The two hoards had been discovered at almost the very same time in two fields that were divided by a thick hedge. The groups on either side were oblivious to the others superb discoveries!
The bronze hoard would from now on would be known as PRESTWOOD ‘B’ and the silver hoard PRESTWOOD ‘A’
Two hoards! The silver hoard caused plenty of excitement as had been spread over a wide area. You will remember that this land hadn't been ploughed since WW11 so the coins must have been spread much earlier. Denarii were being located well away from the original burial spot and handed in as treasure by club members.
The ground was very stony & rock hard so recovering each coin was a labour of love. Virginia, the landowner's daughter who helps run the farm came over with her front loader to help out and was thrilled when her front loader revealed more silver coins.
A circular brown stain at the base of the hole was all that remained of whatever the coins were buried in but there was no pottery to be seen.
The moment that many people had been waiting for had arrived. Lying prostrate on the ground, Dougie's weary & sore hands cleared away loose soil that had earlier been scraped off. A small hole appeared. Dougie knew this was it now as his hand vanished into the void & clawed back heaps upon heaps of large bronze coins! Like a terrier in a rabbit hole he kept going until satisfied no more remained.
This hoard was much bigger than the silver one in the next field and the official tally was 735 folles including 438 examples from the London Mint plus some very scarce types, including two unlisted coins.
The denarii from Prestwood A.
6 x Mark Anthony, 31 BC
2 x Nero AD 54-68
1 x Otho 69
6 x Vespasian 69-766
1 x Domitian Caesar
72 x Trajan 98-11
81 x Hadrian 117-13
15 x Antoninus Pius 138-16
7 x Diva Faustina I
1 x Marcus Caesar-1
2 x Faustina II
Marcus Aurelius 161-18
1 x Lucius Verus
1 x Faustina II
1 x Commodus
24 x Commodus 180-19
1 x Divus Marcus
Wars of the Succession (AD 192-7)
21 x Septimius Severus
1 x Julia Domna
2 x Clodius Albinus Caesar
3 x Caracalla Caesar
Joint reign of Severus & Caracalla (AD 198-208)
14 x Septimius Severus
9 x Caracalla
9 x Julia Domna
5 x Geta Caesar
Joint reign of Severus, Caracalla & Geta (AD 208-11)
1 x Caracalla
Sole reign of Caracalla
3 x Caracalla
2 x Julia Domna
1 x Elagabalus
Where's the gold hoard?
The Coroners inquest was held at High Wycombe and was attended by the landowner, finders & Weekend Wanderers organizers and marshals. The Coroner was amazed when the coins were piled up on the clerk's table and invited everyone down to take a closer look at them. Satisfied that procedures had been properly adhered to according to the Treasure Act, the finds were declared treasure and an award was made 50/50 between the landowner and finders. The hoards are now with the Buckinghamshire County Museum.
As a point of interest, Merlin Harker who lives right by the farm came up with a very interesting observation. Merlin saw that if you followed your shadow exactly east to west at the midday sun, your shadow would lead you directly to the silver hoard. We tried his theory out and it worked! The two hoards were exactly 50 paces apart and by following your shadow at midday you arrive right on the spot. We had just got past the summer solstice so that worked but we needed a secure reference point to work from, like a permanent feature. Sure enough, walking the line by 25 paces and heading north for 25 paces led to the very edge of a stone quarry.
So the theory seemed to pan out OK. In that case, where was the gold hoard buried? It is known that Roman folk buried their stashes of coins by separately. Bronze then silver then gold. So following the theory cleverly observed by Merlin, we walked the length of a shadow from the silver hoard eastwards and came to a exactly to a fork in the narrow track that runs alongside the silver field..
Alas, right in the centre of the forked road where the possible gold hoards could be was overgrown by trees.