This gold medieval angel of Henry VII was recently found by a detectorists near Ashbourne (DENO-C5A99E). Henry VII, also known as Henry Tudor, was born in 1457 at Pembroke Castle in Wales. He was the son of Margaret Beaufort, a descendent of John of Gaunt, and Edmund Tudor, half-brother to King Henry VI. His mother gave birth to him when she was only thirteen years old. His father died whilst he was still very young and he spent much of his childhood in exile abroad with his uncle Jasper Tudor. In 1485 Henry Tudor returned to England to challenge his distant cousin King Richard III for the throne and defeated him at the Battle of Bosworth Field. His victory ended the rule of the Plantagenets and ushered in a new dynasty, the Tudors. During his reign he was a shrewd and frugal King, and implemented reforms in areas such as taxation. He married Richard’s niece Elizabeth of York, thereby securing peace between the rival factions of the royal family and ending the decades-long Wars of the Roses. Their eldest son, Arthur, died aged only fifteen in 1502, and their other son Henry succeeded his father upon his death in 1509, becoming the soon-to-be infamous King Henry VIII.
The angel was a type of medieval English gold coin, based on the French angelot. It was introduced in 1465 by King Edward IV, elder brother of Richard III. He also introduced the half-angel in 1472. The name is taken from its depiction of the archangel Michael slaying a dragon on the obverse. The reverse portrays a ship with a cross for a mast. This coin was minted in London. The reverse has been double struck, meaning it was stamped twice by accident.
Derbyshire Unearthed is an exhibition at Derby Museum and Art Gallery celebrating the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Treasure Act 1996 on 24th September 1997 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the founding of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The exhibition is in two parts. Part 1: Artefacts runs from 23rd September 2017 to 4th February 2018. Part 2: Coins and coin hoards will run from 10th February 2018 to 22nd April 2018.
The exhibition forms part of the national ‘20 Years of Treasure‘ celebrations organised in partnership with the British Museum. It features fascinating Treasure objects from Derby Museums’ collection as well as non-Treasure that have been lent or donated by their finders. Here are a few of the highlights:
Amber Valley is a government district and borough of Derbyshire, situated in the heart of the county. Amber Valley takes its name from the River Amber, a tributary of the River Derwent. It is a semi-rural area, which is home to the towns of Belper, Alfreton, Heanor and Ripley, as well as a number of villages including Duffield, Heage and Swanick.
The Amber Valley area has been inhabited by humans from the Stone Age. This Mesolithic flint flake (DENO-AFA6D5) dates from around 8,300 years ago, at a time when nomadic tribes roamed the tundra as hunter-gatherers, and was found near the village of Mackworth.
During the Iron Age, south-central Britain was incorporated into trading links with the Continent, and this sculpture from near Duffield (DENO-B69D3A) suggests that such connections may have influenced Iron Age Britons as far north as Derbyshire. The carvings on each of the faces closely resemble those found on the ‘Kermaria Stone’, a contemporary pillar stone from Finistere in Western Brittany.
Before the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43, most of the East Midlands was inhabited by a tribe known as the Corieltavi. Amber Valley is situated just outside the area that is traditionally associated with the Corieltavi, but this gold quarter-starter (DENO-D9B7E3), dating to c.60-c.30 BC, was found in Belper. It suggests that Corieltavi territory may have extend further than is traditionally thought or it could indicate that there was trade between the Corieltavi and their neighbours. This is the second most westerly recorded coin of its type, but other Corieltavi coins have been discovered as far away as Wales.
When the Roman Empire teetered on the brink of collapse during the Crisis of the Third Century, Britain was thrown into turmoil and two coin hoards from Amber Valley offer a glimpse into the fragmenting power structures of the time. One hoard from near Ripley (DENO-658F16) consists of three silver ‘radiates’, a denomination introduced in the 3rd century AD. The ‘radiate’ may originally have introduced as a double-denarius, but only weighed one and a half denarii. The decline of the Empire at this time is marked by the rapid debasement of the coinage, as the silver content in ‘radiates’- around 50% in c.238 – was reduced to as little as 1% by the end of the century, with copper-alloy becoming the primary material. In some cases the lack of financial sustainability drove people to take matters into their own hands; in the Amber Valley Hoard (DENO-A6AE06), all but four of the 3631 coins are ‘barbarous radiates’ – locally produced coins intended to fill a gap in the supply of official coins to Britain.
Found in Hazelwood, DENO-90F223 is one of many examples of medieval coins uncovered in Amber Valley. This silver penny dates to the period AD c.1280-c.1282, during the reign of King Edward I. At this time, Hazelwood was one of the numerous towns and villages that formed Duffield Frith, an area of Derbyshire which had become part of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1266 and been appointed a Royal Forest in 1285. King Edward I hunted in the forest personally between AD 1290 and 1293.
Belper is known for being one of the earliest mill towns, home to the world’s second-oldest water-powered cotton mill. But before the Industrial Revolution, the spinning of textiles was carried out by hand. The use of a spindle whorl, such as the one found in LVPL-D80A36, was a crucial part of this earlier process, as it could increase and maintain the spin of the spindle. Whilst this particular one is made of lead-alloy, spindle whorls were common throughout the world and so could be crafted from a variety of local materials, including chalk, limestone, antler and even coral!
Just as the driving force of the Industrial Revolution grew from such towns as Belper, then so do objects discarded by Britain’s declining industries in the competitive modern age find their way back to Amber Valley. This lead-alloy seal matrix (DENO-3BFC06), found in Holbrook, from the Crane Foundry in Wolverhampton, is one such example. This seal matrix dates anywhere from 1847, when the foundry registered its own trademark, to 2006, when the company went into liquidation. Objects like these prove that, thousands of years after the first settlers made their home among the hills of Amber Valley, its people are still leaving behind little pieces of history for future generations to find.
I have been a volunteer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Derbyshire since October 2016. I am currently on a gap year after finishing high school, where I studied History for A Level, and next year I will be studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick.
What does your role involve?
As I volunteer, I record and identify objects found by members of the public with the help of the Finds Liaison Officer for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Alastair. I also photograph objects, post information about the PAS in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire on social media and assist at outreach events at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.
What area of history/archeology are you most interested in?
For a few years my area of interest has been medieval English history, particularly the Wars of the Roses. Thanks to the PAS, I am now also interested in the history and archeology of Imperial Rome and early medieval Europe.
Why did you start working for the PAS?
Volunteering for the PAS gives you a hands-on approach to history, and has shown me how much understanding the past relies on using individual, often ordinary, objects to discover how people used to live, work, eat, drink, spend money, trade goods, wear their clothes and perform other similar tasks. The PAS and its network of FLOs and volunteers is vitally important in contributing to the global effort of preserving these little yet crucial pieces of history from being lost forever.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?
The detective work of figuring out the identity of an object from a variety of sources.
What is the most exciting find from Derbyshire you have recorded so far?
This post-medieval pipe tamper (DENO-0C6CC4) dates to around AD 1700-1900, and is shaped as a devil-like figure.
What is your favourite find from Derbyshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?
This gold ring (DENO-0B1431) dates to the 15th century and bears the French inscription “en bon desir”, which translates as “in good desire”. I find this ring interesting as it offers a glimpse into the perceptions and practices of romantic love during the medieval period.