Cheshire Find of the Month – November 2021

The subject of this month’s find of the month is a late Iron Age fob / dangler (c.200BC-AD100) from Marbury cum Quoisley, Cheshire East. Recorded under LVPL-945FF9.

LVPL-9455F9 – An Iron Age fob / dangler from Cheshire. (C) National Museums Liverpool

Fobs/danglers like this one are uncommon finds, with less than 80 identified on the PAS database. It seems there is an interesting cluster around the North Wales-Cheshire-Shropshire borders.

Distribution of Iron Age fob / danglers reported to the PAS (C) National Museums Liverpool.

This object type is still poorly understood, but it is believed they may have been hung from items of equipment, personal apparel or harness decoration. An example that was excavated at Kingsholm, Gloucestershire was still attached to binding, which appeared to be from the corner of a casket. The more of these objects that are discovered and recorded with the PAS, the bigger the picture becomes of what they are and how they may have been used.

Cheshire Find of the Month – October 2021

This is the first of a ‘Find of the Month’ series for Cheshire which aims to highlight some of the exciting finds that are being recorded with the PAS from Cheshire. It’s been a slow restart since the country was first put into lockdown in March 2020, but we’re starting to have some intriguing finds handed in.

The subject of this month’s find is this Neolithic axehead from Handbridge, Cheshire West and Chester, recorded under LVPL-2C1556. What’s particularly interesting about this find is that it was found in someone’s front garden! It’s important to remember that the PAS will record any object that is at least 300 years old and was found by chance, and this includes finds from the garden as well as metal detector finds.

Neolithic axehead from Handbridge, Cheshire. (C) National Museums Liverpool

The object is a complete ground and polished Type 1, Cornish greenstone axehead dating to the Neolithic period (c. 4000-2400 BC). The axehead is most likely formed of Cornish greenstone, an igneous rock characterised by its dark green colour with a coarse-grained texture and a mottled appearance of glassy light and dark minerals. During the Neolithic period, axeheads, including this one were exchanged across much of Britain, and so this axehead likely travelled a long way to be found in Cheshire.

A significant number of Neolithic axeheads have been reported to the PAS, c.950 at the time of writing, and roughly 100 of these have been identified as possibly being made of Cornish greenstone. What’s so significant about the Handbridge axehead is that it’s only one of 38 Neolithic axeheads reported from the North-West of England, and only one of seven to be reported from across Cheshire, and it’s the only one to be identified as possible Cornish greenstone. This makes this axehead a unique and exciting addition to the PAS database!

The Poole Hoard 2016 T325

The Poole hoard was discovered on the 18th of April 2016 in the parish of Poole, Cheshire East. After reporting the discovery to me at the Museum of Liverpool (MOL) myself and MOL archaeologist Dr Mark Adams went out to investigate the site. The hoard had been discovered in plough soil and many of the coins were ploughed out but three large clods remained. The finders carefully wrapped the coin filled clods of soil. Concerned that there was organic material, such as a box or bag, the clods were kept cool and damp on the advice of the British Museum’s conservators. As conservation grade equipment was not to hand some ice buckets and dampened jay-cloths did the trick nicely!

Part of the Poole Hoard, LVPL-8CC2AC. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. License: CC-BY.
Part of the Poole Hoard, LVPL-8CC2AC. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. License: CC-BY.

Newly discovered clods of the Poole hoard. LVPL-8CC2AC. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. License: CC-BY.
Newly discovered clods of the Poole hoard. LVPL-8CC2AC. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. License: CC-BY.

X-ray of the Poole Hoard, LVPL-8CC2AC. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.
X-ray of the Poole Hoard, LVPL-8CC2AC. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.

X-ray of the Poole Hoard, LVPL-8CC2AC. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.
X-ray of the Poole Hoard, LVPL-8CC2AC. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The coins are all nummi dating to the 4th century AD. The clods of soil and excavated loose coins were sent down to the British Museum where they are currently being cleaned by Pippa Pearce and her team. First x-rays were taken of the clods to find out what we were dealing with and the best way to proceed. The x-rays of one clod revealed a coin scatter and 2 aggregated groups of coins, one of which is like a coin cone. The larger block which had been wrapped and lifted revealed a massive haggis-shape of coins along one side. This reminded Pippa of the Beau Street hoard which contained haggis-shaped coin bags. So we are keeping our fingers crossed that once fully excavated a coin bag will be revealed, a very special find for Cheshire. The x-ray of a third smaller clod was blank however the clod will still be excavated to make sure nothing is missed. It will be exciting to see what these three mini-indoor excavations will reveal.

The conservator working on the large block, Alex Baldwin, believes that the block has been turned on its side and what she has is about two-thirds of a segment of a shallow saucer shape of coins, much as if they had been put into a shallow depression in the ground. There are pebbles right up against the coins on what would then be the base of the hoard and the lower area is more crusted while the top is more ‘free flowing’. The coins are all horizontal, when viewed that way up, as if they have been levelled out. No finds of leather textile or wood have been discovered.

The coins have not yet been studied in detail and we do not yet know how many there will be. Currently there are 2013 but more may follow with the excavation of the clods. Some of the rulers represented so far are Constantine I, Constantine II, Licinius, and Crispus.

A nummus of Constantine I, with the reverse depicting camp-gates with two turrets and a star above. The reverse legend reads PROVIDENTIAE AVGG and the coin dates to AD 324-330. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.
A nummus of Constantine I, with the reverse depicting camp-gates with two turrets and a star above. The reverse legend reads PROVIDENTIAE AVGG and the coin dates to AD 324-330. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.

The detail on the helmeted bust of this nummus of Constantine I is especially clear. The coin was minted in Siscia (now Sisak a city in central Croatia). The fantastic condition of these coins, suggest that they were not in circulation for very long. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.
The detail on the helmeted bust of this nummus of Constantine I is especially clear. The coin was minted in Siscia (now Sisak a city in central Croatia). The fantastic condition of these coins, suggest that they were not in circulation for very long. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.

The corrosive Cheshire soils have however done their work in places and therefore chemicals are not being used on this hoard. The conservation team are doing wet manual cleaning to remove as much soil as possible, then drying the coins out and doing more manual cleaning when they have hardened up a bit, consolidating the more powdery areas.

Poorer surface preservation can be seen on these coins. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.
Poorer surface preservation can be seen on these coins. Copyright: Trustees of the British Museum. License: Attribution License.

As this exciting and important hoard makes its way through the Treasure Act process and onto the PAS database it will allow us to discover more about Cheshire’s Roman past.

Finds from Home

Coming from Ireland but working in England I particularly enjoy when finds have a connection with home. The North West and Ireland have always had links and it should be of no surprise then when objects are handed in for recording which have been found in the North West with strong Irish parallels or links.

Tonight I’ve been working on an object which I recorded recently from Cheshire East, a rare socketed heeled sickle of Iron Age date, LVPL-23E5CF.

Early Iron Age sickle (LVPL-23E5CF) Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

The sickle is in three pieces and has been irregularly broken during antiquity. On one face of the object the heal, in line with the socket, is decorated with a squirly circlet decoration. When researching the sickle I found that it is the only socketed example currently on the PAS database. Immediately I contacted my fellow FLOs Peter and Dot who have an interest in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. They directed me a similar example in Norwich County Museum which may have been created in the same mould. Then during the course of her research Dot spotted another parallel illustrated on p.14 of P.W Joyce, A Reading book in Irish History. Eager to find out more I emailed the National Museum of Ireland who got back to me straight away with a bit more information about their object. The Irish sickle was discovered in Westmeath and catalogued by William Wilde.

 

A spectacular Cheshire find now in the Museum of Liverpool is the Huxley Hoard, LVPL-C63F8A.

The Huxley Hoard (LVPL-C63F8A) Copyright: Museum of Liverpool. Licence: CC-BY-SA.

A hoard of silver bracelets with flat, punch-decorated bands belong to a well-known Hiberno-Scandinavian type found distributed in areas around both sides of the Irish Sea and produced in Ireland during the second half of the 9th and first half of the 10th centuries. The hoard like that from Cuerdale was probably part of a war chest belonging to the Vikings driven from Dublin by the Irish to settle in the Wirral, Lancashire and Cumbria at the beginning of the 10th century.

 

Early Medieval Irish mount (LVPL-D35B84) Copyright: Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

This mount from Doddington, Cheshire East LVPL-D35B84 is another great example of Irish metalworking and the decoration can be compared to mounts from the ‘near Navan’ hoard for which an eighth-ninth century date was suggested. Again probably brought to England due to Viking activity.

Objects connect us with people and places and figuring out their stories is a great way to connect us to the past and for me, to home.

The Acton Hoard

The Acton Hoard LVPL-15E376. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

The Acton Hoard was found at Acton, near Nantwich, in December 2014 by a local metal detectorist during a rally. It is a lovely little group of five silver denarii deposited within a lead cone shaped container with a lead disc stopper. The coins are all of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, dated AD 194–8. The hoard is Treasure Case 2014 T966 and is recorded on the PAS website as LVPL-15E376.

The coins were all sitting within the lead container which was closed up using the lead alloy disc when they were discovered. Once the disc/stopper was removed the coins were discovered in fantastic condition. The container had not only protected the coins from abrasion which usually occurs when objects move around in the plough soil but the lead alloy container also prevented the silver coins from deteriorating due to a chemical reaction which occurs between silver and lead.

The container appears to have been made especially to hold the coins and this unusual method of concealment suggests that the hoard was deposited ritually rather than as a small pot of money that it was intended to recover. The hoard has been declared Treasure and was selected to go on display at the British Museum as part of the exhibition Hoards the hidden history of ancient Britain. The exhibition is free and runs until 22 May 2016. The Acton Hoard has been acquired by Nantwich Museum and will be returned to Cheshire following the exhibition.

The Acton Hoard LVPL-15E376. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

  • The Acton Hoard LVPL-15E376. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

Book Review: ’50 Finds from Cheshire’ by Samantha Rowe

ckWBYCc_It was a lovely pre-Christmas treat when my signed copy of ’50 Finds of Cheshire’ dropped through the letterbox. Written by Vanessa Oakden, the Finds Liaison Officer for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, the book presents fifty of the most interesting artefacts to be found in Cheshire and reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) since 2004. The fifty finds or groups of finds were selected by the author to represent Cheshire’s rich and lengthy heritage.

The book begins with a foreword from Dr Michael Lewis, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, explaining the importance of stray and detected finds and their recording by the Scheme to help piece together our understanding of the past. The chapters then run chronologically from the Neolithic to the Post Medieval period. Each chapter begins with an introduction to the period in regards to Cheshire as a region. The finds are then presented in a coherent and accessible manner. For each find the author gives details of the object type, its date, when and where it was discovered, and a record number so the reader can go online to the PAS database for more information. Each object is also represented with colour photographs and a blurb describing the object and its significance.

It is no surprise to find that the Roman chapter is significantly longer than others. This is in part due to the affluence of Cheshire in this period, but also due to the discovery of five new Roman hoards since 2012. This number of discoveries in such as short space of time reflects how active detectorists are in England and stresses the importance of accurate and professional recording through the PAS.

I was lucky enough be involved in the recovery of two of these Roman hoards. In 2012 a detectorist quickly contacted Vanessa Oakden and a team was brought out to excavate and retrieve what became known as the Knutsford Hoard; comprising Roman silver and copper coins, silver trumpet brooches, finger rings, and fragments of a ceramic vessel. It was such a thrill to see coin upon coin be extracted from the soil, most in extremely good condition even after being buried for over 1800 years.

DSC_0699 Knutsford Dec dig_cropped_reduced

In 2015 I was also able to attend the excavation of the Peover Hoard, where 1,000s of 3rd century copper alloy radiates had been deposited in a storage vessel, most of which was intact apart from the very top of the vessel which had been clipped by the plough. The vessel was meticulously excavated under controlled conditions at the British Museum and the images contained in the book reflect the intricacy of the recovery and conservation techniques.

This publication is an accessible and enticing read into Cheshire’s past with the added bonus of the plentiful colour images throughout. The reader will pick up on the fact that many artefacts and aspects of Cheshire’s rich archaeological heritage would have not be recovered, recorded, or fully understood if it wasn’t for the work of responsible dedicated detectorists and Finds Liaison Officers.

Oakden, V (2015) 50 Finds from Cheshire; objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Amberley, Stroud.

50 Finds from Cheshire is available to buy from the following outlets: Museum of Liverpool, Grosvenor Museum, Chester Tourist Information, Chester Archives Service, Weaver Hall Museum Northwich, Lion Salt Works Northwich, Congleton Museum, Congleton Tourist Information, Nantwich Bookshop Manchester Museum, WH Smiths (Cheshire stores), and online on www.amazon.co.uk and from www.amberley-books.com.

 

 

The Buerton Sundial Hoard

One of the most exciting finds from Cheshire in 2015 comes from the parish of Buerton. It is this fantastic wooden sundial found with a lovely hoard of silver coins of Elizabeth I and one of Mary.

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The hoard consists of one silver groat of Mary, (1553-1554) and eleven silver coins of Elizabeth I, (1558-1603). These include three sixpence, four groats, three threepences and one halfgroat and fragments of wood. The coins themselves are a great find but the finder did a fantastic job in spotting this tiny bit of wood and bringing it in. At first we thought it was just a tree root so imagine our excitement when we realised it is a rare sundial probably made in Nuremburg.

wood2-reduced

The three fragments of wood when placed together form a sub-rectangular object. In the centre is a carved circular pit with a central hole for a pin and the walls are stepped to accommodate a brass ring and then a sheet of glass. Between the two halves at the break below the pit is a possible circular pin hole. This would have tethered the string gnomon which also attached to the raised lid and cast the shadow which allowed the user to tell the time. Radiating engraved lines would have held the magnetic compass. A double circular engraved border around the central recess, is divided by diagonal grooves, which form the hour lines, six of which are visible. The Roman numerals IX and X are visible just above 9.00 and 10.00 of the dial. Above and to the left of the X is an engraved small circular sun formed of eight radiating lines representing the sun’s rays projecting from the central circle.

sundial2-reduced

The full record can be found at LVPL-08F250. A fantastic find which could have so easily been missed.