Chester Archaeological Society is now accepting applications for a grant to support the study of archaeological finds reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) from Cheshire.
The study should investigate objects, or groups/ type of objects reported to the PAS from Cheshire and adjoining areas. The results of the study will be produced in the form of an article for publication in the Society’s annual peer reviewed Journal.
The grant is a £700 award designed to support the study by covering personal expenses such as travel and accommodation, as well as access to specialist information and reports, and more. It is expected that the research and article will be completed within two years of the grant being awarded.
This grant offers a fantastic opportunity to make a lasting and significant contribution to our understanding of Cheshire’s past. The grant has been offered twice previously, and has strongly impacted the careers of each grant winner. The first grant was awarded to Matthew Ball and Carl Savage who focused on ‘Unpublished Coin Hoards from Cheshire’ including Roman, Medieval and Post Medieval coin hoards.
From Matthew who studied the Roman hoards: “I am pleased to hear that the CAS has decided to continue the PAS grants. I hugely enjoyed writing and researching my joint-authored article on unpublished Roman and medieval coin hoards from Cheshire for JCAS 2017. The money, among other things, enabled my research partner and I to spend a very enjoyable week in the archives and stores of the Grosvenor in Chester, discovering hoards we would otherwise have missed. This was the first time I had carried out a survey of this kind; the skills required to synthensise all the information on our hoards, their provenances and likely dates of deposition have stayed with me ever since.”
Carl who studied the Medieval and Post Medieval hoards says: “For me the grant was important in contributing to a study and publication of important information that can be used by others in their own work. The application process of the grant also gave me a first hand taste of what it would be like to apply for similar research grants in the future, such as my PhD funding.” Carl is currently a PhD researcher at the University of York and National Museums Scotland.
The second study this grant supported is a survey of the Early Medieval finds reported to the PAS from Cheshire, produced by Pauline Clarke. Pauline says that: “The Chester Archaeological Society grant offered me a fantastic opportunity to research material culture through an increasingly important source – the PAS database. That I have had the chance to publish an article so early on in my academic career is so valuable. The experience has now led to a potential PhD which I would not have had the confidence to undertake without the learning and support offered by Chester Archaeological Society and the Finds Liaison Officers involved.” Pauline is currently a Post Graduate Researcher at the University of Chester.
Applicants should discuss their proposal with the Cheshire Finds Liaison Officer, Heather Beeton, prior to submission. Heather is also happy to answer any questions about the grant and areas of potential study. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Each year the Chester Archaeological Society kindly invites the FLO for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside to write an article for their annual journal to discuss the key finds reported to the PAS from Cheshire for the previous year.
This year’s volume also includes an assessment of the Early Medieval finds reported to the PAS from Cheshire, which was written by Pauline Clarke, a Postgraduate research student from Chester University. Pauline’s article provides an excellent survey and discussion about the different object types represented in the PAS data and brings them into their wider archaeological context of Cheshire and beyond. Pauline also stresses the value that the PAS data has in our understanding of the archaeological record of England and Wales and demonstrates this throughout her well-researched and delivered article.
The article was funded by Chester Archaeological Society’s biennial grant which is offered to support the study of PAS finds from Cheshire. The grant will next be offered in 2021. More information about the grant and how to apply can be found here: https://chesterarchaeolsoc.org.uk/grants-and-awards/
Many thanks to Pauline for writing a wonderfully informative article and shedding some much needed light on the Early Medieval finds from Cheshire. Many thanks also to Chester Archaeological Society for their continued support of the PAS.
Welcome to Top Finds from Cheshire Part 2 of 2. Part 1 looked at finds of note from Cheshire West and Chester, and this addition will be looking into finds from Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton. These blog posts are looking back through some of the amazing finds that have been recorded to the PAS over the past 23 years, in celebration of reaching the milestone of 1.5 million finds recorded on the PAS database. This amazing achievement would not have been possible without the hard work of Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs), volunteers, interns and students, as well the finders who responsibly report their finds.
Prehistory There are numerous finds from the Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton area that date from the Paleolithic through to the Bronze Age. Most of these objects are tools or weapons, such as palstaves, spearheads and worked lithic implements.
The first find for discussion is this Neolithic adze from Sandbach, Cheshire East (LVPL-0E5426), dated to c.3300-3000 BC. The object was found by chance whilst metal detecting. An adze is a cutting tool, used for smoothing or carving wood. There are currently only 54 Neolithic adzes formally identified on the PAS database; two of those come from the North West, one being this example from Sandbach and the other from Bury, Greater Manchester. The Sandbach example is unusual, because its surface is polished all over, as opposed to just the edge. This emphasizes it as a high-status object.
One of the most significant objects discovered from Cheshire East is the late Bronze Age sword from Swettenham (LVPL-55FB97). The sword dates to c.1000-900 BC and is a carp’s tongue type with a transitional hilt that features elements of both Type Huelva and Type Nantes. These transitional type swords are more commonly found in north-western France. The Swettenham sword is the fifth known sword of this type from Britain and is the first from the North West which makes this a nationally significant find. The sword was kindly donated by the finder and landowner to the local museum, Congleton Museum, where it is now on display.
Iron Age Similar to Cheshire West and Chester, only a few Iron Age objects are recorded from Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton each year. Interestingly, unlike Cheshire West and Chester, more single coin finds have been reported from Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton than any other object group, with dress accessories and horse harness equipment being the next common find types.
The Malpas Hoard is a significant find consisting of a hoard of 7 gold Iron Age coins and 28 silver Roman coins (LVPL-DFD9E1; 2014T89). The Iron Age coins are gold staters of both the Western regional series and the North Eastern series dating to c.AD 20-50. The earliest Roman coin is a silver Roman denarius of the Titus Minucius Augurinus dated to 134 BC, with latest being six denarii of the Emperor Tiberius AD 14-37. Although mixed period coin hoards such as this are not uncommon, this particular hoard is possibly directly linked to a historical event. Dr Sam Moorhead, PAS Finds Advisor for Iron Age and Roman coins, argues that the Malpas Hoard could possibly be linked to the defeat and flight of Caratacus in the year AD50/51. Caratacus was a British chieftain of the Catuvellauni tribe who led the British resistance against the Roman invasion. It is believed that Caratacus fled from his final stand in the upper Severn Valley, Wales to the Brigantes territory for refuge, a journey which would have taken him directly through Malpas (Moorhead 2017: 13-19). Although it is not possible to be certain the hoard is linked with Caratacus, to be able to place hoards into a broader historical context is valuable for our overall understanding of hoarding practices in the late Iron Age to early Roman period in North West England. The hoard was declared Treasure and was jointly acquired by the Museum of Liverpool and Congleton Museum.
Roman Much like the other areas of Cheshire, we see a large increase in material culture as we move into the Roman period. In this period, single coin finds are the most reported object, with brooches second. Several hoards have also been discovered from Cheshire East which will be discussed below.
From the Cheshire East area, three hoards have been discovered in recent times: two coin hoards, known as the Poole and Peover Hoards and a multi-object hoard, known as the Knutsford Hoard.
The Knutsford Hoard (LVPL-B44185; 2012T406) consists of 101 denarii and two sestertii, as well as three silver gilt trumpet brooches and two silver finger rings with intaglios, and dates to the late 2nd Century AD.
The Peover Hoard (LVPL-E332C6; 2015T46) consists of a single sestertius and 6956 radiates with a date range of AD 251-74. The Peover Hoard is largest Roman hoard from Cheshire and the North West of England (Ball 2017: 15).
The Poole Hoard (LVPL-8CC2AC; 2016T325) consists of 5 AE radiates and 1496 nummi that have a date range of AD 313-35.
Hoards such as these were deposited during periods of social or political unrest with the idea being that the hoard would be retrieved once the situation had stabilized. Why these hoards were never recovered by their depositors we will never know. All three hoards were declared Treasure, the Knutsford and Poole Hoards were jointly acquired by the Museum of Liverpool and Congleton Museum, and the Peover Hoard was solely acquired by Congeton Museum. Further information about the Malpas and Knutsford Hoards can be found here: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/collections/archaeology/cheshire
Early Medieval Much like Cheshire West and Chester, Early Medieval finds remain scarce in the Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton area. Nevertheless, regionally and nationally significant finds have been recovered from the Cheshire East area.
The most significant Early Medieval find from Cheshire East comes from Marbury. In 2016, three Early Medieval silver openwork disc brooches were discovered, one wholly intact and two fragmentary, dating to c.AD 800-900 (LVPL-590EDA; 2016T953). The brooches are decorated with Trewhiddle-style decoration, depicting typical animal motifs. The brooches correspond to Weetch’s Type 16, and at present only 15 other examples are known. The presence of the brooches in the North West England presents a growing corpus of these brooch types in the North West of Britain. These brooches have previously been more common finds from the East of England, but the addition of the Marbury brooches with a copper alloy example from Flintshire, Wales (LVPL-30A793) and the Galloway Hoard, Scotland presents a growing North West presence. The brooches were declared Treasure and have been acquired by the British Museum.
A further discovery from the Marbury area is a silver pin with a polyhedral head dating to c.AD 700-900 (LVPL-EEFE6C; 2019T699). The pin appears to have no direct connection to the Marbury brooches, but does emphasize the presence of skilled craftsmanship in the Cheshire area during this period.
Medieval As in the case of Cheshire West and Chester, coins are the most common object recorded, followed by lead spindle whorls and dress accessories.
A particularly interesting object is the elaborated decorated lead spindle whorl from Swettenham dating to c.AD 1100-1500 (LVPL-C66E67). As previously stated, lead spindle whorls are common finds from Cheshire and much of England and Wales. Most of the spindle whorls recorded on the PAS database display some form of molded decoration, but rarely is the decoration as precise or as beautifully crafted as the example from Swettenham. Spindle whorls have been recovered from dateable contexts from the Roman to the Post Medieval period, but single chance finds such as these are usually dated to the Medieval period.
A rare find is a Scottish silver penny of Robert I (Robert the Bruce) from Marbury dated to AD 1320-29 (LVPL-DBB81E). Scottish coins south of the border are uncommon finds, and coins of Robert I are particularly rare. To date, only 20 coins on the PAS database have been assigned to Robert I. To put that in context, there are over 77,000 Medieval coins recorded on the database. This makes the discovery of the Marbury coin particularly interesting, as this is the only example from Cheshire and the second from the North West of England, with the other discovered in Cumbria.
Post Medieval The Post Medieval period continues to show coins as the most commonly recorded single object type, followed by buckles. Most of the material reported to the PAS from the whole of the Cheshire region dates from the Post Medieval to Modern period.
An unusual find is the almost complete skillet from Congleton dating to c.AD 1475-1500 (NARC-3775C7). The discovery of a near complete bronze cooking vessel is rare, as vessels such as these are usually represented through fragments only, such as legs, handles and body fragments (Butler, Green and Payne 2009: 3-4). These were valuable objects that were often repaired when damaged, rather than discarded. What is especially intriguing about the Congleton vessel is that it was discovered wedged between large rocks, which suggests it may have been deposited deliberately.
The final find of interest from Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton is the silver seal matrix from Swettenham (LVPL-505BF7; 2015T732). What is interesting about the seal is the direct connection it appears to have with its local area. The seal matrix depicts a donkey emerging from a crown or coronet which is the crest of the Mainwaring family. The Mainwaring family is known to have resided in Cheshire East and above the north porch of St. Peter’s Church in Swettenham is a sculpture depicting the family’s crest. The connection between the seal and proximity of the findspot to St. Peter’s Church presents an additional insight to the local history of the area. The seal was declared Treasure and acquired by Congleton Museum because of its clear connection to the local area.
These two blog posts have covered some of the more interesting and archaeologically valuable finds from the whole of Cheshire to celebrate reaching 1.5 million finds recorded on the PAS database. There’s plenty more on the database so why not have a look yourself and see what’s been discovered in your local area. Who knows what the next 1.5 million finds will bring us from Cheshire!
If you would like to report an archaeological find from England or Wales, contact your local Finds Liaison Officer: https://finds.org.uk/contacts
References Ball, M. (2017) ‘Unpublished Coin Hoards from Cheshire: Part 1 Roman Hoards’, Journal for the Chester Archaeological Society Vol: 87 pp.13-41. Butler, R., Green, C. and Payne, N. (2009) ‘Cast Copper-Alloy Cooking Vessels’, Finds Research Group 700-1700 Datasheet 41. Moorhead, S. (2017), ‘The Malpas Hoard and the Flight of Caratacus’, in E.J, Stewart (ed.) Insights into Roman Hoards of North West England: Proceedings of the 2016 Conference at the Museum of Liverpool, Liverpool: National Museums Liverpool, pp.13-19. Weetch, R. (2013) Brooches in Late Anglo-Saxon England within a North West European Context: A Study of Social Identities Between the Eighth and Eleventh Centuries. Unpublished PhD Thesis: University of Reading.
After 23 years, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has reached the milestone of recording 1.5 million objects. To celebrate this immense achievement, this blog is going to highlight some favourite finds, from different broad periods, that have been recorded from Cheshire. As Cheshire is a county with a wealth of interesting finds, two blog posts have been produced. This first one will be highlighting some of the amazing finds from Cheshire West and Chester, with the second looking at finds discovered in Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton. So many of these finds were recorded by not only Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs), but volunteers, interns and students, without whom the PAS would not be the success it is today. Similarly, enormous gratitude is extended to the finders who offer their finds for recording, because by doing so, they are adding immensely valuable information to the archaeological record of England and Wales.
Prehistory There are numerous finds from Cheshire West and Chester that date from the Paleolithic through to the Bronze Age. Most of objects recorded to the PAS are metallic, mainly because the majority of objects reported are discovered by metal detector users, but we also get a number of non-metallic finds.
The first find of note is this barbed and tanged flint arrowhead from Sproston, which dates to the early Bronze Age (c.2500 – 1600 BC) (LVPL-88B913). Arrowheads are particularly rare finds from Cheshire, with this being one of only five barbed and tanged arrowheads recorded from across the whole of Cheshire.
Second is this late Bronze Age spearhead from Dutton, dated to c.1050-1000 BC (LVPL-597E94). This spearhead is classed as a Davis Type 16 (lunate) which is one of the more unusual types of spearhead and is particularly rare for this region. It is one of only two currently known from Cheshire. These lunate spearheads are believed to have been weapons of the warrior elite and were as impressive for parade as they were effective in combat (Davis 2015). This example from Dutton is one of the smallest known examples of its type.
Iron Age Iron Age objects are uncommon discoveries from Cheshire West and Chester, with only a few objects reported each year. Many of the objects recorded are dress accessories or horse harness equipment; very few coins have been recorded.
Two interesting finds are these well-preserved ‘knobbed’ terret rings from Tattenhall dating to c.AD 1-100 (LVPL2100 and LVPL2101). Both terret rings fall under Spratling Type IX (1972) and are two of the most decorated and well-preserved terret rings to come from Cheshire and the North West of England.
This Colchester one-piece brooch dates from the late Iron Age to early Roman period, c.AD 25-60 (LVPL-1FD141). Discovered in Brickley, this is the only example from the North West of England and is in an exceptional state of preservation, with only the catchplate damaged.
Roman In Cheshire, as for much else of the England and Wales, the presence of Roman material culture outweighs the number of artefacts discovered from previous broad periods. The influx of material culture for Cheshire is not only explained by the influence of the conquering Roman Empire but also the presence of the Roman town and fortress Deva Victrix in modern day Chester. Vast discoveries of interesting Roman objects from Cheshire West and Chester have been found over the years, but here are two of the standout examples.
First is this millefiori disc brooch from Horton-cum-Peel dating to c.AD 150-200 (LVPL-F1F6CC). This brooch is in almost perfect preservation, with a small portion of the disc missing as well as the pin. The intricate design of the enamel is seen on other examples, but this example from Horton-cum-Peel presents the design in a smaller, more intricate manner that indicates highly skilled craftsmanship. The enamel is produced by arranging glass rods of various colours side by side, heating them enough to fuse them and stretching the bundle of rods into a long thin cane. Once cold, slices were cut from the cane and used as part of enamelled designs (Bayley and Butcher 2004: 130). There are numerous other millefiori brooches on the PAS database, but the Horton-cum-Peel example is the best preserved and the only one recorded from the North West of England.
Another example of stunning Roman craftsmanship is this silver pendant mounting a Roman intaglio from Farndon dating to c.100 BC – AD100 (LVPL-A40A40; 2015T800).The intaglio is made of orange carnelian and appears to depict a fallen soldier in a gladiator helmet attempting to protect themselves from a big cat, possibly a panther, and is thought to date to the first century BC. The silver setting on the other hand likely has a later date, and dates from the late Roman to Early Medieval period. This is therefore an interesting example of the reuse of an object, and if the intaglio is set within an Early Medieval pendant, it presents a case for the retention and eventual reuse of an object centuries after its production. The pendant was declared Treasure by the coroner and was subsequently acquired by the Grosvenor Museum, Chester.
Early Medieval Early Medieval finds from Cheshire are few and far between, so the reporting of any finds from this period often warrants a ‘find of note’ status. Common Early Medieval finds from this area are dress accessories, such as strap ends and pins, but coins and horse equipment, such as stirrup mounts and terminals, have also been reported.
Arguably the most important Early Medieval find reported from Cheshire West and Chester is the Huxley Hoard dating to c.AD 850-950 (LVPL-C63F8A; 2004T453). Found during a metal detecting rally in 2004, the Huxley Hoard is comprised of 22 items of Viking silver, including 20 flattened arm-rings, most of which are decorated in Hiberno-Scandanavian style, one decorated rod from a bracelet and a complete ingot, along with sheets of lead which are thought to have covered the collection of objects (Ager and Graham-Campbell 2009: 45). Unlike most other Viking silver hoards, the Huxley Hoard appears to be a pure bullion hoard recognised by its containment of only hack silver which would have been used for the exchange of goods or services (Williams 2009: 82). The hoard was reported to the PAS and was later declared Treasure by the coroner, following which, National Museums Liverpool and Cheshire West and Chester Museum Service jointly acquired the hoard. Further details about the Huxley Hoard can be found on National Museums Liverpool’s website: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/collections/archaeology/huxley-hoard
Medieval As expected, there is a large increase of material culture coming from the Medieval period in comparison to the previous eras. In contrast to the previous periods, coins are now the most commonly recorded object, followed by lead spindle whorls and then various types of dress accessories.
One of the more interesting finds to come from Cheshire West and Chester is this decorated plumb bob from Gulden Sutton dating to c.AD 1100-1400 (LVPL-C8B1A3). There are a few other decorated plumb bobs in this form, but they are uncommon finds. This example is in particularly good condition with clear decorative features.
A stunning object is this gold and sapphire stirrup ring from Handbridge dating to c.AD 1200-1300 (WREX-848E6F; 2019T982). The ring displays a high degree of craftsmanship and style which is particularly noticeable in the shoulder design depicting a beast on either side with an open mouth, as if attempting to swallow the sapphire. The ring is also accompanied with an inscription: ‘A V … I A / R A …’ which likely refers to ‘Ave Maria Gratia Plena’ which is Latin for ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’. What is particularly enjoyable about this ring is its perfect condition which makes it look wearable even today!
Post Medieval/Modern The Post Medieval period continues to show coins as the most commonly recorded object, followed by buckles. The majority of material reported to the PAS from Cheshire West and Cheshire dates from the Post Medieval to Modern period.
The broad scope of the PAS is to record objects that are at least 300 years old but there are occasions when an object of a Modern date is particularly interesting, and we might choose to record it. This is certainly the case for this clay tobacco pipe bowl from Handbridge, depicting a shamrock on one side and a harp on the other, dating to 1860-1910 (LVPL-D03967). The pipe bowl serves as a reminder of the close connections between this area of the North West and Ireland. Following the influx of Irish migrants to the UK in the 1840s as a result of the Great Famine, there was an increase in demand for Irish styled pipes. It is therefore possible that this pipe was manufactured locally to cater for this demand. This is supported by the discovery of a pipe bowl with the same design during excavations at Chester (Rutter & Davey 1980, Fig 75.30), and is an example of when material reported to the PAS contributes to our historical knowledge of an area and complements research undertaken through excavations.
The final object of this blog post is a display of bling which is epitomised by this gold locket from south of Chester, dating to c.AD 1550-1600 (LVPL-53C9B4; 2012T512). This locket is an unusual find and is a rare example of commesso jewllery found in England. Commesso cameos are jewels that combine a carved cameo with enameled gold and other materials such as precious stones. This example has a cameo of child at the bottom with a red stone above, possibly a garnet, and is surrounded by a foliate design of blue enamelled gold. This object was declared Treasure and subsequently acquired by the British Museum.
References Ager, B. and Graham-Campbell, J. (2009) ‘5: Discovery and Contents’, in J. Graham-Campbell and R. Philpott (eds.), The Huxley Viking Hoard: Scandanavian Settlement in the North West, Liverpool: National Museums Liverpool, pp.45-57. Bayley, J. and Butcher, S. (2004) Roman Brooches in Britain: A Technological and Typological Study Based on the Richborough Collection, London, The Society of Antiquaries. Davis, R. (2015) Late Bronze Age Spearheads from Britain, Stuttgart, Steiner Franz Verlag. Rutter J. A. and Davey, P. J. (1980) ‘Clay Pipes from Chester’, in P. Davey (ed.), The Archaeology of the Clay Tobacco Pipe, III, British Archaeological Reports, British Series 78, Oxford, pp.41-272. Spratling, M.G. (1972) Southern British Decorated Bronzes of the Late Pre-Roman Iron Age, Unpublished PhD, University of London. Williams, G. (2009) ‘8: Hoards from the northern Danelaw from Cuerdale to the Vale of York’, in J. Graham-Campbell and R. Philpott (eds.), The Huxley Viking Hoard: Scandanavian Settlement in the North West, Liverpool: National Museums Liverpool, pp.73-83.
See also Part 2 which discusses finds of note from Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton. If you would like to report the discovery of an archaeological object from England or Wales, contact your local FLO: https://finds.org.uk/contacts
My name is Heather Beeton and I’ve recently taken over from Ben Jones as the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Finds Liaison Officer for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside. I’m based at the Museum of Liverpool but my role will take me all over the three counties, identifying and recording archaeological objects discovered by the public.
I’ve had an interest in archaeology since a young age when I would burrow into a man-made hill at my primary school in search of pottery. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to study Archaeology at A-Level and subsequently as an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh. In September 2018, I completed my master’s from Durham University in Museum and Artefact Studies, with a focus on archaeological objects and researching and identifying fakes and forgeries.
I enjoy working in the field and have spent many summers in the dirt. I have participated in various archaeological projects in the North West of England as well as in Italy. I have also held the post of Finds Processor for the excavations at the Roman fort, Halmyris in Romania since 2018. My passion lies in the Roman period but I find all archaeological objects fascinating and enjoy researching them.
As a local to the north west, being born and raised in Warrington, I look forward to learning more about the archaeology of my home region and engaging with finders across this area of the north west.
Our new Finds Liaison Officer for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, Heather Beeton, will begin hosting Finds Days this week. She’ll be at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Wirral on Saturday 12th October 10:30-13:30.
She will be hosting Finds Days at various other local museums across the region including the Museum of Liverpool, Manchester Museum, Warrington Museum and Art Gallery, The Grosvenor Museum, Nantwich Museum and Congleton Museum.
Heather will be identifying and recording finds were found in England and Wales and date from Prehistory to the 1700s.
To attend a Finds Day, contact Heather via email or telephone to let her know you’re coming and to confirm the event is still going ahead. Email: Heather.Beeton@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk Tel: 0151 478 4259
Check out this poster for the dates and locations for all the Finds Days for the rest of the year. Stay tuned for the confirmed 2020 dates!