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!

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.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks…

There must be some truth in this old and well used adage because it is one of the oldest proverbial sayings in the English language and there are many citations of it; the earliest example in print is in John Fitzherbert’s ‘The Boke of Husbandry, 1534’, when even then it was regarded, “an old saying”.

There’s no doubt either, that now in my seventieth year and a retired granddad, I’m nowhere near as sharp as I once was. Though I do try hard to keep up with the very latest in technology; software ‘apps’, “Twitter”, “Instagram”, “Face-Tube”, and the rest of cutting-edge gadgetry.

So I do sometimes wonder what possessed our FLO, Vanessa Oakden, to take on the unenviable challenge of educating me, ‘an old dog’, in the many new facets of self-recording – with a view to becoming a PAS Volunteer. Well, she bravely did and following our initial training session at her new HQ within the Pilotage Building, in the historical setting of Pier Head and Albert Docks in Liverpool; I have gradually come to terms with the nuances of ‘Photoshop‘, the specifics of academic terminology and discipline of absolute evidential accuracy.

I came late to the addictive hobby of metal detecting and first met with Vanessa at one of her monthly ‘surgeries’ at the Chester Grosvenor Museum, when I disclosed to her an item under terms of the Treasure Act, 1996. On this occasion is was a simple but exquisite Post Medieval silver button, subsequently declared by HM Coroner’s Inquest as “treasure” and now donated to the Chester museum. As a result we are the proud possessors of a certificate signed by Ed Vaizey, the then Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy.

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My detecting buddy and I have worked hard to develop a fine portfolio of landowner partners and in a relatively short period of time we have unearthed some interesting stuff. Dubbed “Finders-Sharers” we are, as our business cards proudly state,”a trusted team dedicated to the search, discovery and preservation of buried local history in partnership with caring, sharing landowners”.

Finding and preserving bits of local history always provides the metal-detectorist with a tremendous buzz of excitement and now, armed with PAS self-recording skills and authorization; the sense of achievement in making a positive contribution to documenting the Nation’s Heritage is pretty-much complete. Thanks Vanessa for your confidence and trust in an old dog; but particularly for your limitless patience and continued support!

So, is John Fitzherbert’s “Boke” of 1534 correct?…

...and he [a shepherd] must teche his dogge to barke whan he wolde haue hym, and to leue ronning whan he wolde haue hym; or els he is not a cunning shepherd. The dogge must lerne it, whan he is a whelpe, or els it will not be: for it is harde to make an olde dogge to stoupe [put his nose to the ground to find a scent].

…Nope. You most definitely can teach the old bloke new tricks but it does take a fair-bit longer and the challenge is not for the faint-hearted. Paradoxically, in this fast-moving world, it’s us old dogs that have the time to ponder, learn and contribute…

William Aldington – PAS Volunteer

 

Recording finds in Chester

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Today I was visiting the Grosvenor Museum in Chester where I hold finds day on the second Friday of each month.

My day started well with a queue of three visitors as soon as the doors were open. The first finder was a local metal detectorist who frequently records his finds on the PAS database. His grandson had found a Post-Medieval signet seal ring combined with a pipe tamper, similar to this example LVPL-A563A1. After writing out a receipt for the object the finder left and was followed by a local field walker who had brought me a bag of stones. Although they ‘fitted in his hand’ the stones had not been worked and upon further investigation I discovered they had been found near a river which explained the amount of wear. It was a relief not to have to carry them all away with me!

A couple more visitors came and went with small objects to add to our knowledge of the local area. Next came a detectorist who I had not seen in a while. He showed me an object which his wife had found a number of years ago. This had been recorded by my colleague as a Post-Medieval drawer handle as it has very similar qualities. The record can be found here LANCUM-2D85A8.

The finder then explained he had just gone back to the same field and found a long curving pin which he took out. After having a ‘Eureka’ moment he had realised that his pin was the same greyish green patina as his wife’s object and asked her to dig it out of their box of unidentified finds. It was a perfect match and a Post-Medieval drawer handle suddenly turned into an Iron Age pin! The pin is similar to the swan necked type which date from 300BC to AD50. He also brought a lovely thumb-nail scraper and a 14th century seal matrix for me to record.

Following these exciting finds there was a bit of a break between visitors allowing me to catch up on Photoshop, the less exciting side of my role. My last visitors of the day was a married couple who detect locally and are keen to record their finds. Having showed me a group of interesting finds the previous month, I had asked them if they would allow me to display their finds in the new PAS case which will be in the Museum of Liverpool from next month. They were happy to loan their objects to us for six months and had brought them in along with a couple of new discoveries. They have found a number of Early Medieval finds including this lovely strap end LVPL-D1295B and this Early Medieval buckle LVPL-BFBC1E

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Both of these objects are unusual finds for the Cheshire area where we don’t see many Early Medieval objects. However these new records are starting to show interesting patterns of activity.

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.

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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.

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