Finds Through The Ages – The Post-Medieval Period

This period covers the time from around the beginning of the rule of Henry VIII to the turn of the 20th century. This is generally split into two periods

  • Early = AD1500 – 1650
  • Late = AD1750/1800 – 1900

We don’t use ‘middle’ as there is debate over what constitutes the late Post Medieval.

Of all the coin producing periods, there aren’t as many from the Post-Medieval period on the database because, in general, we don’t record objects beyond 300 years old. By this point more copper coinage was starting to appear and gold was rarely traded. There are a few gold coins on the PAS like this Angel (BERK-FDB621) of Henry VIII (AD1509 – 1557) which shows the Archangel Michael slaying a dragon; a retelling of the bible (according to the ‘Book of Revelations‘ Michael led God’s armies against Satan – represented by the dragon).

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Copper farthings of Charles I (AD1625 – 1649) is a common coinage of this period and comes in various types. The most common of these is the ‘Rose’ type (BERK-461291).

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To deal with a lack of small denominations in the regal coinage civic institutions and individual business people issued copper-alloy tokens between 1648 and 1672 (1679 in Ireland); the end date resulting from the reintroduction of farthings in copper alloy by Charles II. This token (SOM-8613C1) was issued locally in Newbury.

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Jettons also carried on in use into the Post-Medieval period. There were many common issuers of jettons with the surnames Luffer, Schultes and Krauwinkel. However, there were also many oddities such as this (BERK-10706C) which revives Roman imagery issued in the name of Calaigula. The real issuer is anonymous. These are a series of Roman Emperor jettons in the 17th century produced in Southern Germany.

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In this period goods were becoming more regulated. Cloth seals were lead seals attached to industrially produced cloths as part of ‘the alnage’: industrial regulation by officials who controlled the quality of cloth sold and levied a tax of a few pence. After such a long time it is often difficult to read the seals. This seal (BERK-BC8D96) appears to be part of a two-part seal, with a tab remaining on the larger disc. The secong, sealing disc is incomplete but the letters CHAR[.] / WA(L?) can be seen over two lines. Four holes have been punched through the seal, after it was closed. These would have been quite common in Berkshire as the town was known for its cloth trade out of The Cloth Hall, which is the site of West Berkshire Museum.

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Back to coins and there was an interesting use for them during this period. Some silver coins would be completely worn down and then curled at the edges to form what have become known as ‘love tokens’. This example (BERK-371C81) has been bent at both edges. It is unclear when or why this tradition started.

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Buckles during this period become much more ornate, like this fabulous double-loop buckle (SUR-2E3924) with scrolls and fleurs. There is also these ‘snake’ head buckles (BERK-C95E53), which is a misnomer because the ends are goose or duck heads. These are still popular today but no look like snakes.

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0
Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

It is also at this time that the English Civil War occurred (AD1642 – 1651). Newbury was the location of two battles during the war and we often get lead shot (BERK-6A24E6) and gunpowder caps (BERK-1C30A8) that might be associated with the battles.

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0
Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

As in every period people liked to adorn their dress. This dress hook (BERK-93DC8A) has a beautiful quatrefoil decoration and is gilded. It has also been recently acquired by West Berkshire Museum.

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With the introduction of tobacco to Britain during the Post-Medieval period, pipes and other paraphernalia appeared. One associated object is pipe tampers, for pressing down tobacco into the pipe bowl. These could be very simple or more elaborate like this example (SUR-0101B2) featuring The head of the pope in profile; when inverted he appears as the devil with the inscription ECCLESIA.PERVERSA.TENET.FACIEM.DIABOLI (The church subverted takes on the face of the Devil) and on the other side the bust of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey facing right with MORTENDO.RESTITVIT.REM.E.GODFREY E(dmundbury) (Godfrey by his death re-established the state). Godfrey was believed to have been murdered by Catholics on 12th October 1678.

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Finally, I’ll end with one of the late David Williams favourite objects from the collection (SUR-59B224), which is featured in the book ’50 Finds from Berkshire’. Thought at first to be a pipe tamper it is in fact more likely a very rude toy which no doubt gave someone hours of laughs.

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Finds Through The Ages – The Medieval Period

This period covers the time from the Norman Invasion in AD1066 to the beginning of the 16th century. There is no agreed upon date for the end of the Medieval period. AD1500 is generally considered to be the end. Across Europe different events are used such as the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 and Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas in 1492

In England the Protestant Reformation in 1517 is sometimes used as well as the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and the dissolution of the monasteries in AD1536. As you can see, these dates generally fall around the turn of the 16th century.

For Berkshire, there are 998 records (as of 18/11/2020) which is a fivefold increase on the Early-Medieval period.

As ever, coins are the most common finds from this period, making up 39% of the finds. Not surprising really as during this time coin use increased and in England there were 19 people who claimed the throne of England as well as coins from other countries coming across The Channel.

This coin recorded recently (BERK-8CCFE5) is gold quarter noble of Edward III. Although there are over 150 of these on the database, this one is interesting. Firstly, it is a mule, a coin where the obverse and reverse are not commonly found together. Secondly it has a spelling mistake in the reverse legend. Usually it would read. EXALTABITVR IN GLORIA (Exalted in Gloria) but this one reads EXALTABITVR IN GALhORI.

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During the reign of The Plantagenet’s (AD1154 – 1272) Richard I (AD1189 – 1199) and King John (AD1199 – 1216) would often issue coinage, not with their name, but in the name of Henry II (AD1154 – 1189). There is not many examples of their coinage from Berkshire, but from the few there are they are particularly fine, including (SUR-10981B) and (SUR-CF0A45)

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Although they look much like a coin, Jettons in the Medieval period were counters. The word Jetton comes from ‘jeter’, meaning ‘to throw’ in French, and relates to the ‘casting’ of accounts.  The German term ‘rechenpfennig’, or ‘reckoning penny’, also refers to the use of jettons for accountancy purposes. They were produced primarily in England, France and the area which is now Germany as well as the Low Countries. Jettons had the name of the issuer on them. In Berkshire, the Jettons found are mostly English and French. This one (BERK-888F92) dating from c. AD 1418-1487 has a crown with 3 annulets across band on the obverse. The reverse depicts a triple stranded straight cross fleuretty within 4-arched tressure  around 3 annulets and crown.

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Buckles are another common type of Medieval object. During this period they go through many different stylistic and functional changes. There are multiple types of single and double loop buckle, mostly circular or square with different types of decoration. This single loop buckle (BUC-A7C7C6) is a T-shaped type is one of the more complex designs and can can be dated to the 13th or 14th century. It seems likely that these buckles had a specialist use, perhaps as pairs on animal leashes, probably for a dog. Decoration was often as important as function and this double loop buckle (BERK-3E8C35) dating to the late 15th century is in the form of a rose.

The Medieval period also produces a new kind of object; a seal matrix. These consist of a handle often with a loop or knop on the terminal and a flat bottom which has the reversed image of a seal. These seals take on all kinds of motifs and can be personal. However, more often than not these are off-the-shelf objects bought by people who could not afford their own personal seal, such as (BERK-D0D06C) which depicts the head of St John the Baptist in a bowl or platter.

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Personal adornment is continually important in the Medieval period. Brooches came in many shapes and sizes, but these were not all purpose made. This silver penny (BERK-BA4C81) was gilded and a loop attached to the back to turn it into a brooch.

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Finger rings were also popular across society. Many could be simple bands for those who couldn’t afford something more elaborate. This gold finger ring (LON-C8CE96) must have been quite expensive and special to the owner. It depicts St Catherine holding a wheel and sword, and the raised tapering shoulders are engraved with cross-hatching. It was during the Medieval period that the cult of St. Catherine appeared after the alleged rediscovery of her body around the year AD800 at Mount Sinai, supposedly with hair still growing and a constant stream of healing oil issuing from her body.

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This Medieval silver pendant (BERK-EF232D) dates to the 13th – 14th centuries. The letters are an abbreviation of the Hebrew saying; “Ata gibor le’olam Adonai” (You are mighty forever, O Lord). As you might have noticed, the words should be abbreviated AGLA rather than AGAL as they are on this pendant. This misspelling is not uncommon and occurs on many of these pendants. AGLA was a popular charm used in the Middle Ages to fend off fever and possibly also the Black Death.

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It wasn’t only people who were adorned but also their horses. This harness pendant (BERK-031CD5) decorated with an enamelled white lion standing left with one front paw raised might have been a heraldic symbol for the rider.

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During the Medieval period it became more important to know the weight of coins due to their precious metal content and to know whether they were genuine. One of the most common is the half-noble coin weight (BERK-6F52E4). In the 15th century, this weighed 54 grains (3.5g). This example is just under that weight at 47.8 grains (3.1g) and has probably lost some mass.

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With an influx of Continental coinage it was also important to know the coins coming into the country were genuine. This Portuguese coin weight (SUR-570382) possibly rrepresents a half Moidore.

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Finally is Berkshire’s only pilgrim badge. This example (BERK-29EB55) depicts a robed figure caarying a lamb, or possibly a child in one arm. This figure appears to be sitting or kneeling, possibly on a boat. Pilgrim badges were bought as souvenirs, proofs of pilgrimages and to evoke (the protection of) saints, medieval pilgrims purchased metal badges at shrine sites which were then worn, typically on hats.

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