Address: West Berkshire Council
West Berkshire Museum - The Wharf Newbury West Berkshire RG14 5AS
I have been working as the Finds Liaison Officer for Berkshire since August 2020. Prior to this I studied for a BA in Ancient History and Archaeology and MRes in Archaeology at the University of Reading. I am currently completing my PhD thesis on the Roman site at Richborough at the University of Kent.
I have also worked as a field archaeologist in the UK as well as working on excavations in Catalonia, Portugal and Italy.
My main area of interest in Roman small finds, particuatly scales and weights, and Late Roman belt sets.
Phone (work): 01635 519397
To deal with a lack of small denominations in the regal coinage during and after the civil war, 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 (PAS Tokens Guide).
On the PAS database there is 124 copper-alloy tokens of Post-Medieval date and most will be of this period.
From Berkshire, the most common token is that of the Borough of Newbury. There is around 50 examples of these, with over 60% coming from West Berkshire. However, some are found in the surrounding counties and there are examples as far away as Warwickshire and the Isle of Wight.
The token consists of a obverse reading BOROVGH OF NEWBRY with a castle with three turrets. The reverse reads IN COVNTY OF BERKS, BN with 1657 in the centre.
Tokens issued by individual businesses tell us the name and sometimes the type of business. Pub/Inn tokens are pretty common and this token was issued by Reynold Thornborough, vintner of the Bull’s Head in Broad Street, Reading. Obverse: a bull’s head, *REYNOLD THORNBROVGH. Reverse: R • T, VINTNER IN READING.
They are not always round either. There is this heart shaped token dating to 1669 by Michael Williams of The Dyers’ Arms in Wantage. The obverse has a shield in the centre which comprises a three motifs and a chevron. Obverse: MICHAEL WILLIAMS / HIS HALFE PENY, Reverse: OF WANTINGE DIER 1669 / The Dyers’ Arms
There are tokens from Berkshire for multiple other services. This worn token of Henry Whitell of Reading, dated AD1656 depicts a dairymaid holding a plunger shaft in a churn, possibly churning butter HENRY WHITELL / [IN] READING.
This farthing trade token dating to AD 1652 was issued by John Naish of Newbury, who is noted as a grocer on his token but is also recorded as churchwarden in AD 1659.
Another common business is grocers and this token was issued by grocer William Sweetaple [SIC] of Andover, Winchester in AD1655. Like any coinage, trade tokens travelled, like this one, and others from further afield have been found in Berkshire.
Trade tokens aren’t a phenomena isolated to the Civil War period, as those Roman, Medieval and Post-Civil war periods, and they could be equated with the shop vouchers we use today.
You can read our guide to tokens here as well as see more from Berkshire
Still working through lockdown and receiving objects through email, but that hasn’t stopped some rather interesting finds coming in.
Most recently is this copper-alloy Roman object. I say object because at around 40mm it is too big to be a sestersius. The portrait appears to be Antonine in date and could be of Faustina, the daughter of Antoninus Pius and wife of Marcus Aurelius. A double sesersius has been suggested but this would need to be a century later with a radiate bust.
It could be a medallion but it appears more as a coin. It is also unusually squared with rounded corners. This one is still undergoing research and seeing it in person should reveal more.
Next up is a decorative Roman vessel escutcheon of 1st – 2nd century date. It appears to be in the form of a Maenad, a follower of the God Bacchus, and would have likely been attached by lead melted in the back as there is no other clear sign of attachment.
This next item is rather interesting. It is most likely a pommel for a late Iron Age or early Roman dagger as it appears too small for a sword. There are some very typical types of sword and dagger pommels from the period but also some more unusual. Only received this one this week, so I’ll be doing some more research
There was also two coins which were a first for me to record, both 17th century Commonwealth coins. Both were either damaged or cut but there were enough features to identify them as a shilling (above) and a penny (below). Both feature conjoined shields of St. George and Ireland with mark of value XII (Shilling) and I (Penny) above with a sun initial mark.
Finally is this wild boar carved from wood. It is unclear how old it is as wood doesn’t preserve well unless in the right conditions. It is one big pig and it will be fun trying to find out more about it.
As always thanks to the finders for their photographs. I’ll be seeing all of these objects in person in the middle of the year to confirm the identification and get them fully recorded.
Recently I posted a picture of the sole Roman crossbow brooch from Berkshire, found in the parish of Welford, on Instagram and asked people “Which way up is correct?” The results of this were about 50/50.
The traditional way to show a crossbow brooch on images is with the axis bar, what we call the head of the brooch, at the top (below top). However, according to Roman iconography it should actually be the other way up (below bottom).
For centuries crossbow brooches were drawn and photographed like the top image. This became the usual way of doing things but also skews the viewers perception of how the brooch is worn. Calling the end with the axis bar the “head” also doesn’t help.
The below image shows several people wearing crossbow brooches. The angle at which they sit implies that the axis bar is at the bottom. However, with mosaics it is often difficult to interpret due to the size of the tiles and skill of the maker.
Frescos are another good source of Roman objects. The fresco below shows a crossbow brooch already attached to the garment. If we presume that the garment is already the correct way up then the brooch with hang with the head at the bottom.
Probably the clearest example of a crossbow brooch being worn is this casket lid. It is obvious that the head of the brooch should be at the bottom rather than the top.
Does it make a huge difference to our understanding of the use of crossbow brooches? Probably not. Their use by Roman officials and the military has been clearly demonstrated (Van Thienen 2017) and more importantly than how they are worn are the different styles of crossbow brooch showing how they developed in different parts of the Empire.
However, it does make a difference to how we understand an objects use. The study of archaeological artefacts is done in tandem with historical and iconographic sources. We can then see how objects were used and what other objects were associated.
This is particularly true in the case of the above fresco where we see a spatula, writing table, ink well, stylus and scroll all in conjunction with each other. Importantly, there is no seal box with these objects. This is one reason they are not thought not to be associated with writing tablets.
In this case, experimental archaeology helps as Colin Andrews (2012) demonstrated that the string impressions in a known Roman wax seal from Wroxeter matched when tying a seal box to a bag rather than a writing tablet. By using a variety of methods we can then come to a better conclusion about the objects use than just by examining the object.
Andrews, C. 2012. Roman Seal Boxes in Britain. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Van Thienen, V. and Lycke, S., 2017. From commodity to singularity: The production of crossbow brooches and the rise of the Late Roman military elite. Journal of Archaeological Science, 82, pp.50-61.
Recently, West Berkshire has been able to acquire a very nice 17th – 18th century silver seal matrix for the collection. The item was found in the parish of Woolhampton in 2019 and declared treasure. This seal matrix has the image of a dove holding an olive branch, a recognised symbol of peace.
The handle is hexagonal and faceted with concave edges. The upper part of the handle has open work decoration
The oval die is grey in colour and it depicts a bird with a long neck facing right holding a six-leaved olive branch in its beak. Both wings are raised upwards, one behind the other. The bird has an oval body which terminates with a long feathered pointed tail, its two talons, the left one slightly raised. There is a circular punch for the eye. The die is outlined with a border formed of very small circular punch marks.
Even though no exact match is known, a bird holding a branch is a common theme on seal matrices. Seal matrices were most popular in the 13th and 14th centuries after which their usage declined.
One of my favourite seals from West Berkshire is this one which reads ‘SIGILL.ROGERI.DE.MVLINS’ (Seal of Roger De Mulins). During the late 12th century, Roger De Moulins was the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St John who died during the sacking of Jerusalem by the Saracens in AD 1187. Variations of the two crosses used on this seal were used by the Order during this period.
Roger de Moulins was in England between early February and mid-April AD 1184/85. He was present at a meeting of Henry II’s court in Reading in February AD 1185, together with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who consecrated the Temple Church in London on 10th February, and the Hospitallers’ church at Clerkenwell on 10th March. So Roger de Moulins was at least in Berkshire in AD 1184/85. The main Hospitaller estate in Berkshire was at Greenham (in the old parish of Thatcham), the manor being granted by Maud, Countess of Clare during the reign of Henry II. It is possible that de Moulins visited the preceptory in Greenham during this time. Although the seal was found to the west of Newbury it is possible that the seal was lost during de Moulin’s visit to England.
There is another local personal seal matrix from West Berkshire. This one is in the West Berkshire Museum collection and is a copper alloy, circular with pierced conical handle, early 14th century, from Chamberhouse Farm, Thatcham.
Inscribed (asterisk)S’RADVLPHI COCI around a six petalled flower, and probably hung around the owner’s neck. Ralph Coke is listed in the bailiff accounts of Crookham Manor 1322-3.
There is nearly 7,000 examples of seal matrices recorded by the PAS, 71 of which are from Berkshire. You can find out more about these by visiting https://finds.org.uk/ and searching for ‘Seal Matrix’ or visit this link for Berkshire.
Late last year I tweeted a Roman putto (child) figurine that was brought in for recording.
The statue is in the form of a chubby and naked winged boy, a putto, seated with his arm outstretched and bent at the elbows. His right hand is broken and his left arm is holding a ball.
The boy’s left leg is bent at the knee and slightly raised, projecting forward, while the right leg is slightly bent and the two feet are posed together. His hips are tilted slightly upwards to the right. His bottom is curved with a perforation in one cheek perhaps for attachment to a pedestal.
Martin Henig says that there are many representations of putti playing (or struggling) with animals, the most famous of which is probably the 3rd century BC Hellenistic ‘Boy with Goose’ sculpture. This type of art is termed ‘genre art’ as it represents an aspect of everyday life, in this case children playing, most often, with animals.
A database search brings up multiple child/putto figurines and a few are from Berkshire. In fact, another putto figurine was found not far from this one near White Waltham.
This time the child is in a running pose with the right arm raised. The right leg is kicked back and the hair is held in a small bun at the neck and the details of the hair are engraved.
The closeness of the finds might suggest some ritual/votive activity in the area. However, it is likely that these figurines were used as lares (household gods) in a family shrine rather than a temple.
A further putto from Berkshire was found near Chieveley. This time the figurine is seated with his arms around the neck of a goose. The boy’s left leg is bent at the knee back towards his buttocks while the right leg is bent around and in front of the left knee. He sits on a round disc that acts as the base of the statue. The goose is cradled above the boy’s left leg and he holds its beak under his chin; his arms grasp the goose’s neck, right hand above left, in a pose that initially looks like he is about the wring the goose’s neck. The boy wears a Corinthian cap and a line of curls can be seen protruding from beneath; the style shows that the statue is of Romano-British manufacture and not imported. Two small wings, now worn and incomplete, protrude from his back below the shoulders.
Not all putto have wings and represent Cupid. This association is a later Medieval one.
Another putto, but this time from Lincolnshire is in almost the exact pose as the first one from Berkshire. The only difference between the two is that the ball is in the opposite hand.
This also shows that putto/Cupid figurines are not localised in the south-east but can appear anywhere. Searching on the database shows that they appear in multiple regions and there are a number of Cupids from northern Britain. They usually appear as playful in some way and in a variety of poses…..perhaps even dancing.
It was getting to the point recently that I didn’t think I would have much for Finds of the Month. However, very recently some rather interesting things landed in my inbox which I’ll be seeing once museums reopen.
The first is, what would have been in its day, a very decorative Millefiori stud, dated to the 2nd – 3rd century AD found near Thatcham. The center is decorated with alternating segments of red and blue enamel in a checkerboard pattern, each with a smaller blue and white checkerboard within. The next field is now empty but the final one has alternating solid red segments with the same red segments in the center. Other examples suggest the missing field would have been solid blue segments with the same blue ones from the center.
These types of studs were likely used on horse harnesses and would have been surrounded by more of the same type in a symmetrical pattern. The pattern is also seen on brooches of the time such as this one from near Chester (LVPL-F1F6CC)
There are now over 40 objects with this type of checkerboard decoration on the database, including studs, brooches and seal boxes.
“Milefiori is the name used to describe small polychrome patterns in glass. These are made by arranging glass rods of various colours side by side, heating them just enough to fuse them and stretching the bundle of rods into a long thin cane. When cold slices can be cut from the cane and used as part of enamelled designs”, (Bayley and Butcher 2004: 47).
The next find seems quite a common thing but identifying it and finding a very similar one made it interesting. It is a half cut penny of Henry III, specifically Type 6d dating to AD1217-18.
The remaining reverse legend of CANTE shows it was minted in Canterbury. However, the moneyers name is missing. The finder of this coin did a little research and found this example in the British Museum
On close inspection it would appear that it was struck from the same die. However, there is a small difference in the initial cross above the portrait. It might be that the monyer HIVN is the same as it would need to be a short name to fit on the coin.
Various other Roman and Medieval coins have been reported this month and they are really nice clear examples
Two of exactly the same coin issue of Constantine were sent to me, however, one is from the mint at Trier and the other is from Lyon.
Copper-alloy Nummus (AE2) of Constantine I Obv. IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG. laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right Rev. SOLI INVICTO COMITI. Sol rad., stg. l raising r. hand, globe in I., chlamys across I. shoulder. Mintmark: PTR (Trier) Date AD313 – 315 RIC VII 39
Copper-alloy Nummus (AE2) of Constantine I Obv. IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG. laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right Rev. SOLI INVICTO COMITI. Sol rad., stg. l raising r. hand, globe in I., chlamys across I. shoulder Mintmark: PLG (Lyon) Date AD313 – 314 RIC VII 1
This rather nice groat of Henry VII was great to identify being so clear. It can be narrowed down to its class by the anchor initial mark and only one jeweled arch on the crown.
A silver groat of Henry VII (AD1485-1509), Class IIIc, dating to the period 1490-1504. Anchor initial mark. Mint of London. North (1991) no. 1705c. Measurements: 25mm in diameter, 2.88g in weight.
Another groat of Henry VII was a little trickier at first but it was identified as by the four normal fleurs on the single bar of the crown rather than 6 uprights seen on other examples.
Silver groat of Henry VII (AD1485 -509). North 1706 Class IV(a). Crosslet mint mark Date 1504-1507. Diameter 30mm, Weight: 2.93
This shilling of Charles I shows a tun initial mark and his 4th Group D bust.
A Post Medieval silver shilling of Charles I (AD 1625 – 1649), Group D, tun initial mark, dating to the period AD 1635 – 1636. Minted at the Tower of London. As North (1991) North No 2225.
Finally for the Medieval and Post-Medieval coins is a groat of Henry VIII.
A complete silver groat of Henry VIII (AD 1509-1547). Rose initial mark. Date: AD 1526-9.
A couple of really nice Iron Age coins were also sent to me. The first is a coin of Eppilus who was a ruler of the Atrebates out of Silchester. He was the father of Verica, the last Atrebatic king who supposedly fled to Rome or was expelled from Britain after attacks from the Catuvellauni.
Iron Age silver unit if Eppillus Obv. Outline cresent, REX above, CALLE (occ. CALL) below. Rev. Spread eagle r. EPP behind, occ, two joined pellet in rings in front. VA 415, BMC 1016-60, Ev.4.1, Al. -, M 108, S 99 ABC 1160
The last one is quite an interesting copper-alloy Iron Age unit. The obverse and reverse show a lion and a helmeted sphinx. However, the style is very classicised as apposed the more traditional looking ones.
Copper alloy Iron Age unit of Tasciovanus. Lion and Sphinx. NT7. Lion right head turned back, pellet border./ Helmeted sphinx left pellet border. VA 1824, BMC 1760-1, EV.11.14, Al.–, M 181, S 255 ABC 2700
All photos courtesy of the finders and the records will be fully completed when the objects can be brought in when the restrictions allow.
With the 50th anniversary of decimalisation and hundreds of millions of coins made over the millennia, I thought I would look at one particular element; die errors. More specifically, spelling mistakes. There is no real rhyme or reason to them, they are not that uncommon, but they do catch the eye and can confuse when recording.
I’ve shared this coin a few times recently. It is a gold quarter noble of Edward III (1327-1377), Fourth Coinage (Pre-Treaty Period), Series G type Ga/Gd mule, dating AD1356-61 (North 1189/1190), mint: London. Ref: North 1991: 52. But, what is most interesting it that it is a mule (obverse and reverse designs not normally seen on the same piece) as well as having a spelling mistake.
The coin should read EXALTABITVR IN GLORIA, however, this one reads EXALTABITVR IN GALhORI, which is a rarely seen variant.
One would imagine that this would be isolated to one mint, this one die. However, this is the third such coin on the database but the others, from Sussex, are from at least one different die.
There is yet another Edward III quarter noble from Lincolnshire with a mistake but this one is slightly different. This time it reads EXALTABITVR IN GnLORIA.
Once again there is another example of this mistake from Suffolk.
Once the coin die has reached the stage of striking then it is too late and multiple coins will be struck with the die. Whatever the reason, through poor copying, illiteracy or misunderstanding the inscription, mistakes were made.
You would think then in modern times that these errors would no longer occur with more stringent checks in places before a coin is minted. However, since decimalisation there are have been a number of errors on coins. One of the most recent is the 400th anniversary coin of the Gunpowder Plot. The most common variation is “Pemember, Pemember the Fifth of November” but other variations such as Pemembep and Novemebep. Clearly there was some error in the striking of Rs on these coins.
There are a number of die errors that have appeared on coins over the millennia and there is a relative handful on the PAS compared with the number of recorded coins. They are and interesting group.
This month for Museum Musings I’ll be looking at S-shaped fasteners, also known as ‘snake buckles.’
The one below was declared treasure in 2009 and subsequently acquired by West Berkshire museum. The buckle, or strap fitting as we record them, consists of the heads and necks of two snakes curved and joined together to form an ‘S’ shape. The snakes may be representations of cobras as they have puffed-out throats.
The strap fitting is quite small (only 2cm) and is postulated to have belonged to a child. When tested it turned out it was 92% silver and 8% copper, meaning it needed to be declared as treasure. Itappearsto be the only silver example on the database. All others are of copper-alloy.
These type of strap fittings seem at the moment to date from the late 16th and 17th centuries (Read 2008, 230; nos 822, 823), and there seems to be a gap between them and the modern S-shaped ‘snake-belt’ fastener (Read 2008, 230-231; nos 825, 826).
These type of fittings are known in various styles and, although sometimes referred to as ‘snake-head buckles’ the ends are not always in the form of a snake.
Some examples have a snakes head at one end, tail at the other and are covered in decoration representing scales.
Others have the same type of decoration but have a snake head at both ends.
This is where the term ‘snake head’ becomes a misnomer as some examples are very clear and have what appear to be goose or duck heads at either end. Many examples also have some decoration in the middle of the ‘S’ shape.
These were attached to a belt with elongated loops at either end, in turn attached to the fitting by a small ring. These loops could be plain and simple or more elaborate and have their own decoration.
Before this 16th – 17th century examples were probably used as sword belts. More research is needed into these to understand the different periods of use, decoration and styles.
It is interesting then that the small silver example acquired by the museum has been interpreted as a child’s buckle and is over 300 years old. Despite an apparent gap in their use between the 17th and 19th centuries they were never just a military object.
These strap fittings have proved so popular that they moved beyond the use mainly for sword/rifle belts but are now a fashion item which can still be bought today. It just goes to show how something that was once adopted and used by a specific group of people can transcend into everyday life.
One of my favourite Roman objects is seal boxes. Colin Andrews (2012) research demonstrated that these boxes were more likely to seal up bags rather than writing tablets, as was previously thought.
There are a couple of examples from Berkshire. The first is the top of a lozenge shaped box. The top is decorated with 5 rows of diagonal lozenges resulting in 25 recessed cells, all of which would have been filled with enamel; a number of cells still retain enamel, now turquoise in colour but probably a darker blue originally. The hinge lugs are retained, and there are two small knops projecting from either side of the lid
The second is the base of a round box. This base has three holes in the bottom to be stitched and then tied to a bag.
This method of attachment is demonstrated in this replica I designed and following Colin Andrews interpretation.
First the base of the box is sewn to the bag through the holes. Next a piece of string is placed around the bag, then fed through two of the holes and placed in two notches in the side of the seal box base.
Lastly the string is wrapped around the back and tied in a knot.
This is when wax is melted into the box and the impression of an intaglio from a ring is stamped into the wax.
The only way to now get to the contents is to cut the string. The idea of the seal is to stop tampering on route to the destination.
The Roman ring with the eagle intaglio recently acquired by West Berkshire museum is the kind of ring that could have been used to create an image in the wax. This way the person receiving the package would have been able to identify the sender.
Seal boxes come in a range of shapes with different decorations. You can find out more about them by searching for them on the database, reading our finds recording guide and Colin Andrews BAR publication. Andrews suggests that many of the designs hold apotropaic powers intended to stop people breaking the seal to steal the contents. These can be in the form of the evil eye, represented as rings, phallic symbols, bright colours or even the image of the Emperor. Whether or not the perceived fear of these images was real or if this was the intention, as many could had other symbolic meanings, the intention was clearly to keep the contents safe before it was opened by the correct recipient.
Andrews, C. 2012. Seal Boxes in Roman Britain. BAR British Series 567. Archaeopress: Oxford
With the current lockdown restrictions metal detecting hasn’t been allowed this month. However, I have still been receiving finds from pre-lockdown and here are a few I have recorded this month.
First up is the featured find from last week. A Silver-plated contemporary copy of a denarius of Septimius Severus (AD193 – 211). There was a lot of counterfeit coinage floating about during the reign of Severus. This one has the obverse of Septimius Severus but a reverse of a coin of Caracalla.
This Iron Age silver unit (12mm, 1.20g) of the Southern region / Atrebates was recorded by the Surrey FLO. It is attributed to Epaticcus (AD 20-40) and of “Epaticcus Eagle” type. Epaticcus was the son of Cunobelinus who ruled the territory of the Catuvellauni. Epaticcus’ coinage is found in the neighbouring Atrebatic lands which he likely controlled from the early 1st century AD.
A rather early coin is this silver Roman Republican denarius of C. Censorinus Rome, 88 BC Obv. Jugate heads of Numa Pompilius and Ancius Marcus (the 1st and 3rd Kings of Rome). The closeness of their heads could speak to their lineage as well as their policy of peace. The reverse shows a Desultor, wearing conical hat, holding whip in right hand, riding near horse of two horses. The term Desultor has been applied to individuals skilled at leaping from one horse or chariot to another.
The final coin this week is a copper-alloy Roman radiate of Gallienus (AD 253-268), sole reign, dating to the period c.AD 260-268 (Reece period 13). NEPTVNO CONS AVG reverse type depicting a Hippocamp. Gllienus minted coins depicting a Criocamp, Hippocamp and Capricorn. Although they look similar the hippocamp will have a horse’s head, while the criocamp/Capricorn will have a goat/ram’s head. The Capricorn does not usually with the curled tail either.
Andrew Brown says: “There is a difference in the reverse legend too, so the hippocamp is usually NEPTVNO CONS AVG (which is on this coin) and with officina letter N, while the capricorn/criocamp has MERCVRIO CONS AVG and usually officina letters H or ς . The MERCVRIO types are very rare though, the majority will be the normal NEPTVNO/Hippocamp. I don’t think we have any of the criocamp/Capricorn types on the PAS yet and there were very few in the Frome Hoard (3 MERCVRIO examples amongst nearly 6,000 Gallienus coins from the Rome mint) or Cunetio (6 from over 11,000 Rome mint coins).
Onto other objects now with this Wroxter, Trumpet-derivative type brooch. The cast brooch is incomplete but the spring remains in place. Above the head is a damaged plate or integral chain-loop and decorated with a diagonal lentoid moulding at the break. They date from c.AD70 – 125 and there are many variants of trumpet brooches with various different distribution patterns.
On this harness pendant is the remnant traces of red (gules) and possibly blue (azure) enamel on the corroded surface. The heraldic device appears to depict a griffin sergeant in red enamel (?Azure, griffin sergeant gules). It dates to the 13th or 14th century and the design was probably used by many families so narrowing this down is next to impossible, especially as the pendants likely travelled.
This Post-Medieval circular lead has a central depression on each side and on one side is an I represeting 1 in Roman numerals. The mass of the mass is 443.g. It is approximately the weight of one avoirdupois or mercentile pound (448g and 437.4g). This is +/- 1-2% which would have likely been acceptable as long as the seller and buyer were happy. It could also have lost a little mass over time.
Hopefully restrictions will be easing in the next couple of months, but in the meantime keep sending those pre-lockdoen finds and get in contact if you have any questions.