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).

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

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).

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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