Counterfeits, clippings and copies in Derbyshire

Derbyshire appears to have been a hotbed of coin counterfeiting in the past. Several counterfeit Roman denarii and 17th century half crowns and shillings have been discovered in the county and recorded with the PAS. Counterfeits were silver plated (e.g. DENO-DAAFF0), or made from base silver and disguised with a silver wash (e.g. PUBLIC-F070C6). They can be very high quality copies that would have looked genuine and are now only recognisable because of damage to the coins revealing the copper alloy core  (e.g. DENO-9B79DE).

Silver plated contemporary copy of a Roman denarius of Julia Domna.
Silver plated contemporary copy of a Roman denarius of Julia Domna from Wormhill (DENO-DAAFF0). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. Licence: CC BY
Silver plated contemporary copy of a Roman denarius of Julia Domna
Base silver contemporary copy of a Roman denarius of Julia Domna from near Catton (PUBLIC-F070C6). Copyright: Roger Thomas. Licence: CC BY
Silver plated half crown of Charles I.
Silver plated half crown of Charles I from Wormhill (DENO-9B79DE). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. Licence: CC BY

Later Roman coins were also copied, but not necessarily for malicious reasons. In AD 260, Britain, Gaul and Spain broke away from the rest of the Roman Empire, forming an independent Gallic Empire. The Gallic Emperors minted their own coins (based on radiates minted by the central Roman Empire) in Trier in large quantities, many of which are found in Britain. When the Gallic Empire was reabsorbed by the central Roman Empire in AD 274, coin minting in Trier ceased. The mints in Rome were not used to minting coins for Britain, so there was a shortage of radiates in Britain. The inhabitants of Britain had grown used to a monetary economy, so people began to make their own copies of radiates (known as barbarous radiates) out of old Roman sestertii and other pieces of scrap copper alloy. One of the most well known coin hoards from Derbyshire is the Amber Valley Hoard (DENO-A6AE06) which contains 3631 radiates, all but four of which are barbarous radiates. The barbarous radiates in the hoard are very crude; clearly not meant to fool anyone.

The Amber Valley Coin Hoard.
The Amber Valley Coin Hoard. Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. Licence: CC BY

It was a common but illegal practice to clip the edges of silver coins in order to melt the silver down and use it for other things including counterfeiting coins. Until 1662, most coins were struck or hammered from irregularly shaped pieces of metal, so it was easy to get away with this crime.

Counterfeiting and clipping was a big problem for the authorities who made various attempts to prevent it. During the Roman Republic, some denarii were minted with serrated edges (e.g. DENO-C8C497), a feature thought to discourage counterfeiting. They were only short-lived so they were clearly not successful.

Roman Republican silver denarius serratus of L. Papius, from Holymoorside and Walton.
Roman Republican silver denarius serratus of L. Papius, from Holymoorside and Walton (DENO-C8C497). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. Licence: CC BY

During the medieval period, the change from short cross to long cross coinage in 1247 was probably intended to prevent clipping. Coin clipping and counterfeiting was a crime punishable by death. In spite of these measures, coin clipping and counterfeiting continued and was particularly common during the English Civil War when counterfeiters thought that they were more likely to get away with it. Several hoards of clippings from that period have been discovered in Derbyshire. One of these was found in Alderwasley (DENO-060EAA). The video below is from a Blue Peter episode. Skip to 5:25 to see the finders talking about their discovery.

Derby also has a connection to coin counterfeiting. Noah Bullock set up a business on a boat on the River Derwent, where he clipped and counterfeited coins. He was arrested and only escaped the hangman’s noose because he knew the magistrate. The Noah’s Ark pub in Derby is named after him.

Many of the coins mentioned in the article are currently on display in Derbyshire Unearthed: Coins and Coin Hoards, an exhibition of Treasure and PAS finds at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

Districts of Derbyshire: Erewash

Erewash is a local government district and borough of eastern Derbyshire. It lies to the east of Derby and to the west Nottingham. The borough is home to 112,081 people and the towns of Ikeston and Long Eaton are located here.

Occupation in this area seems to date back to at least the Neolithic. Evidence of this can be seen in finds like this (DENO-37C042). This is an implement of unknown form, it is possibly a chisel, axe or a form of scraper tool. It is made from a fine, dark flint. The flake scars caused by the knapping process is obvious on this example as is the areas of retouch on the outer edge. This example dates from c. 3,500 BC – 2,100 BC.

Neolithic flint implement (DENO-37C042). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

Objects of the Bronze Age seem to be a rare occurrence in Erewash, given that only two finds have been recorded from the region on the PAS database. One of these is a very unusual object (LEIC-732185). It seems to be a bridle fitting probably dating to the late Bronze Age, but possibly dating to the Early Medieval period. There is a central strap bar formed of two parts, one upper and one lower. A leather strap would have passed between them. This object also serves to highlight how difficult some objects are to identify and date accurately, due to style and rarity.

Late Bronze Age to Early Medieval Bridle fitting (LEIC-732185). Copyright: Wendy Scott. License: CC BY-SA

Erewash continued to be occupied throughout the Iron Age, as this next object shows (DENO-B0A936). It is an incomplete but beautiful beaded torc that dates from the late Iron Age to early Roman period. The object consists of one terminal and ten beads. The other terminal has broken, and is missing. Each of the ten beads has a raised central plain with a beaded line to each side. It dates from the 1st to 3rd centuries and was found near Ockbrook.

Iron Age Beaded Torc (DENO-B0A936). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

The next two objects are interesting pieces and show that even the Romans were partial to to fun and games in Derbyshire! The first is instantly recognisable and is commonly used today (DENO-81AC76). It is a die made of copper alloy and the numbers are in dot form on the surface of each face. The second is a beautiful coloured object (DENO-4AE6C1). It is probably a gaming piece or bead made of a bright blue glass. The front face of this object is domed and the reverse is flat. There appears to be a hole through the centre which seems to be wider at the bottom than the top. Both objects date to the Roman period AD c. 43 – AD 410 .

Roman Die (DENO-81AC76). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA
Roman blue glass probable gaming piece (DENO-4AE6C1). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

During the Early Medieval period, Erewash was a busy place. The town of Ilkeston was founded in the 6th century and seems to have derived it’s name from its supposed founder Elch or Elcha, who was an Anglian chieftain (Elka’s Tun = Elka’s Town). This zoomorphic strap end dates from a few centuries later (DENO-839B93). The strap end has a zoomorphic (or animal) terminal at one end with a wolf, snake or dog head usually depicted. There is a decorated panel with a design of interlocking knotwork in the centre of the object. This is a lovely example and is almost complete. It dates from the 9th Century AD.

Early Medieval Zoomorphic Strap End (DENO-839B93). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

Finds from the Medieval period are more common in this region than previous periods. This gold annular brooch is one of the more special items from the area (DENO-1AF752). It has been decorated with a pair of clasped hands on one edge and the pin has a collar at the junction of the loop and shaft. The inscription reads “IOV I: IVIL VOI ONLI”. It appears garbled, but it can be reconstructed as “Love, I will you only”. Which suggests it was given as a gift between lovers. It is a beautiful object with a wonderful and loyal sentiment behind it.

Medieval Gold Annular Brooch (DENO-1AF752). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

More finds are discovered in the region of Erewash from the Post Medieval period than are found from any other period. One of these finds is a silver soldino of Doge Leonardo Lorendano of Venice (DENO-2B1DD6). The coin depicts the standing figure of Christ on the obverse (front), with the standing figure of St Mark with the kneeling Doge at his feet on the reverse. This object highlights how interconnected places like Derbyshire, and the rest of the country, were at this time with the rest of Europe. During the 15th and 16th century there was a shortage of English struck halfpennies within the economy of the country, so people began filling the gap with foreign coinage. This is an example of one of the coins they used instead, this coin has a similar weight in silver as an English halfpenny. This coin dates from AD 1501 – AD 1521.

Post Medieval Soldino of Doge Leonardo Lorendano (DENO-2B1DD6). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA



Meet the Volunteers: Susheela

Susheela teaching young minds about archaeology.
Susheela teaching young minds about archaeology. Copyright: Susheela Burford. License: all rights reserved.

Tell us about yourself.

I have been a volunteer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Derbyshire since November 2016. I am also volunteering with the PAS in Lincolnshire and Shropshire as of November 2016. I completed my PhD in Archaeology at UCL in 2015 as well as having a baby! Since returning from maternity leave and leaving my previous job at the Museum of London I am attempting to gain as much experience with the PAS as I can to hopefully enable me to work for the Scheme one day.

What does your role involve?

Volunteering for the PAS involves me helping to identify objects found by members of the public, photograph and record them on the database under the supervision of Alastair, the Finds Liaison Officer for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Other duties as a volunteer include posting information about the PAS in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire on social media, attending training as and when required at different venues around the country and assisting at outreach events run through the various Derby Museum sites.

What area of history/archeology are you most interested in?

I have a love for all things archaeological and historical and thoroughly enjoy researching and learning about new subjects, objects and time periods. However, I am most interested in the Iron Age and Roman periods with my PhD research re-examining archaeological evidence of structured deposition from a number of different sites across the UK, specifically looking at possible interpretations of ritual deposition in both watery and dry contexts.

Why did you start working for the PAS?

The PAS combines everything I love about archaeology and heritage: working with finds, research, and meeting with and talking to a wide variety of people about archaeology. As a volunteer I would like to make whatever contribution I can to furthering the understanding and research of archaeology and our own cultural heritage, be it through helping to identify finds, or talking to people at events who would not otherwise have known about the PAS. It is such a fantastic Scheme that anyone can get involved with and because so many people do get involved, what they find contributes to our wider understanding of our past and constantly changes what we think we know and understand about our own history, which I find incredibly exciting.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?

Identifying the finds and researching new finds I have never come across before.

What is the most exciting find from Derbyshire you have recorded so far?

None yet but let me get back to you!

What is your favourite find from Derbyshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?

I love the beautiful zoomorphic interlace decoration on this Early Medieval sword pommel mount shown below (record no: WMID-2FF927). The workmanship on this one piece makes you wonder what the rest of the sword looked like.

Early Medieval sword pommel.
Early Medieval sword pommel (WMID-2FF927). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY.


Districts of Derbyshire: Amber Valley

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.

Mesolithic Lithic Implement
Mesolithic flint blade (DENO-AFA6D5). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA

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.

Iron Age 'Pillar Stone' or Stele
Iron Age ‘pillar stone’ or stele (DENO-B69D3A). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY.

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.

Iron Age Quarter Stater
Iron Age North Eastern Lindsey Scyphate Quarter Stater (DENO-D9B7E3). Copyright Derby City Council. License: CC BY

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-658F16consists 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.

Radiate coin hoard from Ripley
Radiate coin hoard from Ripley (DENO-658F16). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY-SA
Roman Coin Hoard
The Amber Valley Hoard (DENO-658F16). Copyright: The British Museum. License: CC BY-SA.

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.

Silver Medieval Penny of Edward I.
Silver medieval penny of Edward I (DENO-90F223). Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme. License: CC BY-SA.

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! 

Medieval Spindle Whorl
Medieval lead-alloy spindle whorl (LVPL-D80A36). Copyright: National Museums Liverpool. License: CC BY-SA.

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.

Crane Foundry Seal Matrix
Post-medieval to modern seal matrix of the Crane Foundry, Wolverhampton (DENO-3BFC06). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC BY.

Meet the Volunteers: Simon

Simon Nicholson. Copyright: Simon Nicholson. License: All Rights Reserved
Simon Nicholson. Copyright: Simon Nicholson. License: All Rights Reserved


Tell us about yourself.

I have been volunteering with the PAS in Derby since November 2015. My background is in adult education; my specialist area is Astronomy.

What does your role involve?

I assist the FLO identifying and recording items brought in by members of the public.

What area of history/archaeology are you most interested in?

I have long been interested in the Roman period, but since volunteering with the PAS I have become interested in a wider range of periods, especially Anglo-Saxon.

Why did you start volunteering for the PAS?

I am recovering from a stroke, and was looking for a positive use of my time. As I have always had an interest in history, working with the PAS sounded very attractive. I support the aims and goals of the PAS, I feel the recording of found objects is an important part of preserving our heritage, and I can appreciate the value of the database as a resource for future research.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?

I enjoy the chance to see and handle ancient objects, and the challenge of identifying artefacts. The variety of objects that come in is amazing.  I find the training provided excellent; I have learned so much.

What is the most exciting find from Derbyshire you have recorded so far?

DENO-648944 is a Polden-Hill type Roman brooch.

Roman Polden Hill Brooch
Roman Polden Hill Brooch.(DENO-648944) Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License CC-BY

I find personal items like brooches very evocative.

What is your favorite find from Derbyshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?

DENO-D9B7E3 is an Iron Age coin of the Corieltavi tribe.

Iron Age Quarter Stater
Iron Age North Eastern Lindsey Scyphate Quarter Stater (DENO-D987E3)
Copyright Derby Museum Trust. License: CC-BY

Before working on the PAS I had an image of Iron Age Britons as rather primitive, huddled in their woad waiting for the Romans to civilize them! But objects like this, beautifully crafted, demonstrate a sophisticated culture.




Meet the Volunteers: Roger

Copyright: Roger Thomas License: All Rights Reserved.
Copyright: Roger Thomas License: All Rights Reserved.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a secondhand & antiquarian bookseller who got interested in archaeology by watching Time Team on the telly. I joined a local archaeology group in 2007, had my first go with a metal detector in 2014, was signed up to the PASt Explorers scheme by Wendy Scott (FLO for Leicestershire and Rutland) in 2015 and have been self-recording my finds onto the PAS database since then.

I live in North west Leicestershire, but do most of my fieldwork over the border in South Derbyshire.


What does your role involve?

An awful lot of learning! I don’t have an academic background (I was expelled from Grammar School in 1970 for taking time off to go and see Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight festival, which seemed like a good idea at the time – and to be honest it still does) but I’ve always been interested in books and have assembled a decent library of finds identification books to help with self-recording. And I can always bother Alastair whenever I get really stuck.

I usually go out detecting twice a week and at the time of writing I’ve found about 300 objects which are worth a record. As I’ve been detecting for 23 months, that equates to 13 items a month, or roughly 1½ items per detecting session. Or to put it another way, for every 4 hours spent detecting I usually find one thing that isn’t a shotgun cartridge, mastitis ointment tube, horseshoe, bit off a tractor, ringpull, bottle cap or green waste…..


What area of history/archaeology are you most interested in?

At the moment I’m particularly interested in what happened in South Derbyshire after the Roman Conquest.


Why did you start volunteering for the PAS?

I was keen to identify things myself and there was no FLO in post for Derbyshire at the time, so Wendy Scott suggested I could have a go at recording stuff myself. There was an offer of free training, which I was only too happy to accept.


What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?

The training days I’ve been on – at the British Museum, York & Leicester Universities, the Museum of London and Birmingham Museum – have all been thoroughly enjoyable, and I’ve learned more in the last one & a half years than in the previous forty.


What is the most exciting find from Derbyshire you have recorded so far?

That would probably be the 13 Roman lead sling shots.

Three images of a lead Roman slingshot.
A Roman sling shot from Catton, South Derbyshire (PUBLIC-640928). Copyright: Roger Thomas. License: CC-BY.

They are the first to be recorded from the East Midlands, and I’d love to find out more about why they were where I found them.


What is your favourite find from Derbyshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?

Not sure if I’m supposed to choose something I haven’t recorded myself, but everyone who’s ever handled this Neolithic stone axehead (PUBLIC-6B05D3) has wanted to take it home with them.

Neolithic stone axehead (PUBLIC-6B05D3). Copyright: Roger Thomas. License: CC-BY

It’s just so beautiful and tactile and must have taken someone hundreds of hours of polishing to get that fabulous surface finish.

It was probably deposited into the River Trent as a votive offering. Luckily for us the river moved and it was found in the spoilheap when a lake was being dug over the palaeochannel.

Thanks are due to Kevin Leahy for helping with the photography.