Hooked on Fasteners? A Question of Terminology

Keeping the records on the PAS database in step with the most recent advances in research and approved terminology is a constant and time-consuming task. In this blog post, SWYOR volunteer Joan Tozer describes the work she has been doing to update one group of objects: hooked tags and other associated fasteners.


The PAS database is a constantly evolving set of data. Over the years, PAS has changed the way in which finds are recorded as research develops and our understanding of different object types improves. Hooked tags are a very good example of this. Originally, all dress fittings with a hook and plate were recorded as HOOKED TAG as the object type. Then, the policy changed to distinguish between Early Medieval examples and Post Medieval ones, by using HOOKED TAG and DRESS HOOK respectively. As more have been recorded people started to fully appreciate the range of hooked dress fittings, the guidance changed again to reflect this diversity. The current guidelines for recording can be found in the excellent and comprehensive PASt Explorers Finds Recording Guide by Helen Geake which was updated as recently as April 2020, though the text makes it clear that there is still much to learn about some of the more enigmatic types, and that the guidance may change again as the true picture becomes clearer.

Figure 1. Just a few examples of the eclectic range of hooked fasteners on the PAS database.YORYM-2095D4, HAMP-98A634, LVPL-A64B37SF-177231 and NLM-104E6B 

Each successive advance in understanding generates data cleaning work to update any database records that were created earlier. Data cleaning is a regular and ongoing aspect of the FLO’s work, though often one that takes second place to the pressures of recording new finds.

Work in Lockdown

In March, when we went into lockdown, we SWYOR volunteers were unable to volunteer at the PAS office on a weekly basis as we had done. With all this in mind, our FLO, Amy, asked me to review hooked tags and associated items recorded by the SWYOR office, to bring them into line with the recently revised guide. This task is still ongoing, but the majority has now been completed.

This work is important because, once done, the identification of future hooked tags and other dress accessories will be easier, and any searches for research purposes will be more likely to return all the appropriate records and types.

Hooked Tags

The first part of my task was to identify the items that had been recorded with outdated terms according to the revised guide. To do this I searched on HOOKED TAG, DRESS FASTENER (DRESS), DRESS HOOK and any other likely object types that we could think of.

My next job was to use the photographs to check that the objects were correctly described. In most cases it was relatively straightforward to identify a Hooked Tag as these were generally of three different basic forms:

  1. Early Medieval hooked tags

These are the simplest type. They are often sub-circular with a hook and two holes punched for attachment. Of all the types of hooked tags, these were the most scarce, with just 18 examples recorded by the SWYOR office.

Figure 2: SWYOR-D2088B. An Early Medieval hooked tag of Read (2008) Class D, type 1 dating from AD 800 – 1200.

2. Post Medieval hooked tags with an attachment loop at the rear, hidden by the plate.

These are of various shapes but they have an attachment bar or loop attached to the rear, and a hook projecting from one edge. The most common types tends to be circular, trefoil or triangular. Some of these are very ornate, being of silver gilt and decorated with filigree.

Figure 3: SWYOR-9FA964. A silver gilt Post Medieval hooked tag of Read Class D, type 6.

3. Post Medieval hooked tag with a projecting attachment loop.

These are probably the most common type of Post Medieval hooked tags. They have an attachment loop which projects, usually from the top of the tag, with a hook extending from the opposite side.

Figure 4: SWYOR-9020F7. Copper alloy Post Medieval hooked tag of Read Class E, type 3.

Other types of dress hook

The new Finds Recording Guide also encompassed object types other than hooked tags, so next, I had to find and check these. Once again, I searched lots of different object types, then I created lists and worked through these amending the description and other details as necessary.

While hooked tags have sharp hooks, hook and eye fasteners have blunt hooks that slotted into an eye on a corresponding piece. They take several forms, but they should all now be recorded as DRESS FASTENER (DRESS).

Figure 5:  SWYOR-088C69. A hook from a hook and eye fitting, formed from wound wire.

One of the most common types of hook and eye fitting, but a particular favourite of mine, are oval plates with projecting sewing loops, decorated with a fleur-de-lis or perhaps a plume of feathers.

Figure 6: SWYOR-5EDA81. A hook from a cast hook and eye fitting.

A more complicated type is composite, with a decorative front plate mounted on attachment loops and hooks or eyes made from wire.

Figure 7. SWYOR-D16779. A silver gilt composite wire eye (incomplete) from a hook and eye fitting.

Another form of hooked fitting is the double hooked fastener, which has two hooks projecting from opposite sides of the plate. There are both Early Medieval and Post Medieval examples, but the SWYOR office has only recorded three examples, all Post Medieval. These should now be recorded as DRESS HOOK.

Figure 8. SWYOR-128363. A Post Medieval double hooked fastener of Read Class R, type 3

Also fitting into the DRESS HOOK category are hat hooks which is a group which I have a soft spot for. These are recognisable from their distinctive S shaped sharp hook, but are harder to identify when that is missing.

Figure 9.  SWYOR-2D3FE1. A Post Medieval hat hook with an incomplete S shaped hook.

During the categorisation exercise, I examined hundreds of SWYOR hooked fastener records, and now they can be summarised in the following table. These figures are likely to change as more objects are recorded, and as the data cleaning work continues.



Function and Use

The function of the large numbers of Post Medieval hooked tags remains uncertain. They all have sharp hooks and do not appear to have corresponding eyes. Most are decorated, suggesting they were designed to be seen. The most thorough study of hooked tags is by Brian Read in his 2008 book ‘Hooked-Clasps and Eyes’. His examination of surviving costume and contemporary art historical depictions suggests that they were sewn to clothing with the attachment loop, and then hooked directly into material. Depictions in art show them worn on women’s backs, fastening a collar or shawl to the waistband. They are also seen on straps used to hitch up a woman’s skirt; an early version of Edwardian skirt-lifters.

Sub classifications

Read’s book contains a comprehensive classification system, and the PAS Finds Recording Guide recommends that it is used. I therefore started to list those records that did not have Read classes entered, for later amendment. Once it became clear that lockdown was unlikely to end quickly, the SWYOR office provided funding so I could purchase a copy of Read’s book myself, in additional to the one in the office. I could then start the task of checking and entering the Read class for each record, which is still ongoing. It will be interesting to see if some types are more common than others when this work is complete.

Figure 10: Some of the hooked tag designs which the SWYOR office seems to record most often.

Hooked on fasteners?

It has been interesting to really get to know one object type in detail, and I didn’t know that dress fasteners could be so interesting. By tackling the revisions required to follow the newly updated guide during lockdown, I have been able to review over 300 records. This type of task would not have been completed during normal times as the entering and describing of finds hand in for recording would always take priority! But now, next time we have a hooked fitting to record and we are wondering whether to use HOOKED TAG or DRESS FASTENER (DRESS), hopefully all the existing, freshly data-cleaned SWYOR records will lead us to the right choice straightaway. I’m certainly looking forward to the chance to record some more once we can take in finds for recording again. I’m hooked!


Brian Read (2008) Hooked-Clasps and Eyes. Langport: Portcullis Publishing

Helen Geake (2020) Hooked Tags and Other Dress Hooks and Eyes – PASt Explorers Finds Recording Guide on the PAS County Pages of the website.

Databasing During Lockdown – A Volunteer’s View

Andy Benbow, who volunteers in the South and West Yorkshire PAS office, shares his personal experience of volunteering during the Covid-19 lockdown.

This blog is a light-hearted look at the trials and tribulations of trying to record finds while volunteering at home during lockdown. This of course, means being unable to handle finds, and instead, working from a photograph, which manufactures a whole host of problems. Then there is the disadvantage of not being able to use the reference facilities, nor have the FLO (Finds Liaison Officer) at your beck and call, although perhaps speed dial could be useful for this? This blog is based on personal experience. Some volunteers will feel an affinity with my situation, while other more experienced volunteers may not. It is up to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusion.

The Covid 19 lockdown, designed to protect life, has been a problematic time for the volunteers in the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The aim is to promote social distancing to prevent the spread of the disease and thus ensure the safety of finders, staff and volunteers. This means everyone having to work from home. Alas, this has had a knock-on effect, creating problems of operational efficiency for both FLO and volunteer, as it has for every walk of life.

Volunteering from home

FLOs have had to find new ways of managing volunteers and working with finders as the government ordered museums to shut. In our group, management is addressed by the judicious use of IT which allows regular contact with everyone and provides ways of devolving information and managing the workload. FLOs can offer advice to finders by phone and email, but it doesn’t look as if the normal meetings to hand in and collect finds are going to be possible for a while. Everyone is puzzling over finding new and safe ways of doing things.

A rather serious example of our weekly SWYOR volunteer meetings

One side effect of lockdown is temporarily halting the flow of incoming finds, allowing for a period of consolidation. This is a breathing space where prudent management of our time can allow some catching up on the “housekeeping” tasks that all FLOs have as part of the management of their respective empires. Many volunteers in our group have been set to work on data-cleaning tasks, editing, correcting and improving records already on the database. Unfortunately, for some FLOs and volunteers, this chance to deal with backlogs has been counterbalanced by having less time available to work, what with childcare and homeschooling to fit in as well as work, and difficulties of IT provision and access to employer networks.

Despite this, recent internal audits of the work being done by FLOs and volunteers during lockdown are reassuring. While FLOs are forced to spend less time meeting with finders, they have been able to dedicate more time to recording and editing records. To our surprise, the number of finds recorded and records edited during lockdown is actually higher than at this time last year.

Most FLOs have a long queue of objects waiting to be recorded, so recording goes on. We were all set to work capturing images and essential details in our last office based volunteering days before lockdown so that these finds could be properly recorded from photographs once we could not get at the finds themselves. As lockdown starts to ease now, it is hoped that our FLO may be able to gain access to the office at times, to replenish the supply of images to be edited by photography volunteers and then used to write descriptions by volunteers like me. We’re all champing at the bit for more to fill our time!

For volunteers, when we are laid off, we sometimes have a void that volunteering filled. Many of us have got more time on our hands, so we are crying out for more work, at the same time that it is harder for FLOs to provide us with tasks, especially ones that can be done from home. Have you noticed that there are more blog posts than usual?

SWYOR-37D193: a copper alloy Roman coin; an illegible radiate or nummus, typical of the coins we record. But is that a figure? Are those letters?

An obvious problem is trying to maintain productivity when in lockdown. The first challenge is having to work from just a photograph to assist the process of identification and description. Take coins for example. Quite often, handling the artefact with that tilt to the left or right for the alteration of light to catch a letter or a figure on a Roman or Medieval coin can make all the difference to a successful identification. The option in lockdown is a photograph of a patinated and abraded worn blob covered in corrosion. No matter how many times you move the screen, tilting the computer itself is of no avail. One must resist the urge to throw the computer through an open window. And in my experience, if you look at something long enough, and look at hundreds of possible comparisons, you can talk yourself (often with an air of desperation) into believing something is there when it is not.

 Resisting the urge to throw the computer through the window.

It is a good job the FLO is there to bring the over-optimistic volunteer back to reality with a resounding crash. The secret must be to remain calm and fight the urge to become carried away, and to know when you are beaten. Remember also that if the FLO does not know the answer, they will be able to contact somebody in the British Museum who will know (hopefully). As long as they haven’t been furloughed…

Or the Roman disc brooch that you entered on the database as a ‘skeleton’ record, which then becomes your task while on lockdown. You scrutinise the photograph of the front and reverse in plan. One can imagine the frustration of looking at reference material and at the photograph, posing the dilemma of whether the brooch is flat or convex. Racking your brains to try to remember from when you created the outline record. Wishing the photographers had had more time to take that crucial side view, but remembering the panic to get as many finds photographed as possible before lockdown. This would probably not be not a problem to an experienced volunteer with an interest in brooches, or the specialist who would have other clues and a whole host of experience to help them reach a conclusion. But it illustrates the difficulty of working from images alone.

SWYOR-FA1879: Roman disc brooch, confirmed to be flat by the FLO

Then, after all that stress, the relief of discovering that these problems can be resolved when the FLO edits and checks the record. Finding that she has managed to liberate a batch of finds from the office to work on at home, so she has the advantage of having the brooch in front of her. Relieved, but a little frustrated because we have a certain pride in our work and I am sure we are all from a similar mould and like to do the job right. Trying to remember not to panic and to accept that some things are impossible to complete without the object itself.

Identification is also impeded by the lack of access to reference material. It is great that there are lots of resources available online and electronically, such as the PASt Explorers Recording Guides on the County Pages. But, nothing beats having the right book to hand. It would be impractical to try to pass reference material between fellow volunteers, risking the transmission of pathogens and possible loss or damage to expensive books. The cost of sourcing reference material can often be prohibitive in this period of austerity and prudent fiscal budget management, even when the second-hand traders are checked. We get round this by promoting teamwork, checking references for each other, by brain storming and by a lot of searching online and on the PAS database. And as a last resort, we can always pester our FLO who will soon be able to get to the books if required.

These observations are just a few of my experiences during my time volunteering in lockdown. This blog could easily become a thesis, so I must end here. One can only hope that things will soon change again, if not returning to normal, as least adapting to a way in which we can get back to doing what we love doing – helping the PAS to record our fascinating past for future generations.

Eighteenth Century Coin Weights and Counterfeit Coins

Earlier in 2020, the South and West Yorkshire PAS office recorded an interesting coin weight, SWYOR-80FFA8, which was probably made locally in Sheffield. In this blog, SWYOR volunteer Diane Gourley looks into the history and local connections to the manufacture of this object in a little more depth.

Underweight half guinea coin weight
SWYOR-80FFA8: a lightweight half guinea coin weight dating from 1773 – 1800. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service, CC BY-SA

The post medieval coin weight SWYOR-80FFA8 is a copper alloy half guinea coin weight dating from 1773 – 1800. It is thought that it was either made by the firm of Charles and Luke Proctor in Sheffield or it is a copy of a design made by the firm.  It is seriously under the required mass and may have been made to carry out illegal activities. A coin weight of low mass would presumably persuade traders to accept coins that were below the legal minimum weight. You can see the full record for the weight on the PAS database here.

The inscription of “S d // 10 6 // Pw Gr // 2 16½” indicates that the weight was supposed to weigh two pennyweights and sixteen and a half grains, the lowest legal weight of a half guinea (a coin with the value of ten shillings and six pennies) from 1773 onwards. This equates to 4.2g, but SWYOR-80FFA8 is only 3.2g.

In the eighteenth century, counterfeit coins were a major concern because of the harm they did to business and trade. There were a variety of methods used to remove gold from genuine coins and this was widespread and common practice in some parts of the country. It was known to be carried out in Yorkshire at this time (and also see SWYOR-AEF0A6 and SWYOR-9E9B0E  for evidence of coin forgery in the seventeenth century in South Yorkshire). The pilfered gold was then used to make fake Portuguese coins, of types that were widely used in the United Kingdom

Removing gold from genuine coins

A number of techniques were used to supply counterfeiters with gold from genuine coins, including a method known as ‘sweating’ which consisted of rubbing coins together in a leather bag causing wear from which gold dust formed. Several bags could be strapped to the wheel of a wagon. Other methods were to clip or file the edges of coins. It could be difficult to detect by sight alone if thin slivers of gold had been carefully removed from the edges of coins. A variety of techniques were used to replace the milled edges of the coins. Sometimes gold was removed from genuine coins by immersing them in a mixture of acids. Gold was later recovered by a chemical process.

Methods used by counterfeiters

Counterfeiters used alloying to produce counterfeit coins. Clippings and gold dust were melted with silver to form an alloy. The hot metal was cast into small blank discs in a brass mould before being hammered to size. Next it was punched between dies to give the markings and appearance of a real coin. Sometimes gold was alloyed with copper but this was easier to detect as counterfeit coins of the same size as real coins were lighter in weight. Another method used by counterfeiters was to file two genuine coins so they were wafer thin and then to solder them to a disc of copper. The edges were gold-plated to hide the layers of different metals. Alternatively, complete copper discs were gold-plated by counterfeiters.

Counterfeiters’ success in producing fake coins lay in imitation coins being produced with great skill, and was further guaranteed by producing coins which the public were less familiar with, such as the coins from a previous monarch’s reign or the imported Portuguese currency which was in circulation in Britain. Ordinary citizens rarely handled gold coins, were unfamiliar with what a genuine coin should look like and did not possess a genuine coin for comparison.

Portuguese gold coin; a moeda, which would have circulated in Britain
SUR-422962: A Portuguese gold moeda coin, known in eighteenth century England as a moidore and widely accepted as currency in Britain. Copyright: Surrey County Council, CC BY-SA

The Recoinage of 1773-1776

The government, concerned about the widespread fake coinage circulating in Britain because of the effect this was having on business and trade, took steps to reduce the number of fake coins in circulation by bringing in a phased withdraw of underweight coins between 1773 and 1776.

The Light Coin Act of 1773 gave citizens the right to deface light coins offered to them. The phased withdrawal allowed fake coins above a certain weight to remain in circulation so that any effects of suddenly removing a lot of coins on which traders relied could be minimised.  Further coinage reforms were carried out in 1774 and 1776 until only guineas at the correct weight remained in circulation. 

Portuguese coins still formed a large part of the circulating currency though they were not mentioned in the re-coinage act, possibly because it was thought that removing fake guineas from circulation would make it more risky to hold Portuguese gold.  In 1773, tradesmen in different parts of the country advertised that they would accept light guineas and Portuguese gold because they feared loss of trade and there was an opportunity to profit as people with light guineas accepted discounted rates.  Businessmen could then sell a quantity of light guineas and Portuguese gold back to the Bank at a standard rate.  It is likely though, that Portuguese coins remained in circulation after 1775.

Weighing coins to spot fakes

Provision was made for light coins to be returned to the mint for re-coinage, however the measures taken were inadequate, and clipping, filing and counterfeiting continued.  Coin scales were produced so ordinary citizens could try to protect themselves from fake coins by checking their weight, but alloyed or counterfeit coins of the correct weight escaped detection when weighed on ordinary scales. Hydrostatic coin balances were manufactured by some makers to make it easier to detect these fake coins. 

Charles and Luke Proctor: Scientific Instrument Makers

Charles and Luke Proctor were one company that manufactured a hydrostatic balance. They were also makers of knives and forks, medals and other instruments such as ring dials in Sheffield between 1774 and 1787.

Ring dials were used as pocket sundials. Examples manufactured by the Proctors can be seen on the Museum of the History of Science website (Inventory Numbers 33544, 46125 and 48396). Several ring dials are also recorded on the PAS database, for example, SWYOR-2295A2 and even one made by the Proctors: WILT-554BA1 inscribed with their name.

Ring dial made by the Proctors
WILT-554BA1: a ring dial or pocket sundial stamped with the maker’s name: “Proctor” found in Wiltshire. Copyright: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, CC BY-SA

A hydrostatic coin balance produced by Charles and Luke Proctor in Sheffield is pictured in ‘Equilibrium (1980)’, Quarterly Magazine of the International Society of Antique Scale Collectors.

The hydrostatic balance comprises a steel column screwed into a socket in a mahogany box. The column was used to support the scale beam. Brass weights for measuring different coins were provided with the mark C & L Proctor. Water weights were also provided for each coin.

The coin was weighed in the normal way by placing it in pincers below the small pan while the weights were placed in the other pan. Then the coin was immersed in water and the correct water weight was placed in the pan to counteract the buoyancy. A gold coin would balance level in both air and water, while a counterfeit coin, although weighing correctly in air, would float high in the water.

Coin weights were issued in Sheffield bearing the firm’s name, with some dating from 1773 suggesting the Proctors were making coin weights before the re-coinage occurred.

Coin weight made by C and L Proctor
FAJN-042103: a coin weight made by C and L Proctor, though not of the type stamped with their name. Copyright: Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, CC BY-SA

Charles and Luke Proctor: Silversmiths

In 1773, an assay office was established in Sheffield. Assay offices needed weights and scales to verify the fineness of samples and to check the weight of silverware to assess the duty that was payable. They also weighed coins offered in payment as the duty was part of the government’s revenue. Birmingham and other assay offices like Sheffield began verifying coin weights at the critical weight.

Charles and Luke Proctor’s firm also operated as silversmiths and their silver mark ‘C.L above P’ was registered with the assay office in Sheffield. It is suggested that silver production was a smaller part of the business.

Proctor and Beilby: Opticians

It seems that the Proctor firm took advantage of opportunities and adapted their business to suit changing business trends under the guidance of Charles Proctor.  When Luke Proctor left the firm, Charles Proctor continued the business with his sons and went on to develop an opticians business with Thomas Beilby.  The firm was the first in Sheffield to install a ‘rotary’ steam engine in 1786 which suggests successful large scale manufacturing. Proctor and Beilby had a large shop in Birmingham in 1788 and the Sheffield firm became Proctor and Beilby in 1800.

Telling Stories

One of the aims of the PAS is to share archaeological knowledge, by telling the stories of ordinary people as learned from the objects they left behind. The corroded and non-descript coin weight SWYOR-80FFA8 is  great example of how a mundane object can shed light on the past, in this case, the nefarious activities of Sheffield coin forgers in the past, and how it can illustrate the history of a local business and named individuals.


Edward Law. Sheffield Silver Smiths, Part 1. http://homepage.eircom.net/~lawed/SILVERSMITHSPART1.htm

Robert Eadon Leader. ‘Reminiscences of Old Sheffield: It’s Streets and its People’, (1876) Leader and Sons, (New York Public Library) downloaded from Google books [accessed 10.03.2020]

Biggs, N. (2004) PROVINCIAL COIN-WEIGHTS IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY in BNJ 74. https://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital%20BNJ/pdfs/2004_BNJ_74_10.pdf

Counterfeit Coin Detectors, Paper presented by M.A Crawford in ‘Equilibrium (1980)’, Quarterly Magazine of the International Society of Antique Scale Collectors, M. A Crawford (ed.), pps. 261-276 https://archive.org/details/equilibrium1980inte/mode/2up

A Seventeenth Century Trade Token from Leeds

PAS Volunteer Andy Benbow helps in the South and West Yorkshire office as one of the SWYOR volunteers. He found identifying the seventeenth century trade token recorded as SWYOR-93C56E fascinating, and in this blog, he explains what he discovered about tokens.

Augmented sketch of trade token SWYOR-93C56E
Augmented sketch combining the visible features of several examples of this trade token. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme; CC-BY licence

The Token Correspondence Society states that,” A token refers to a coin or similar object issued for use in place of regular or official coinage.”  Various types of tokens have been issued from the Roman period onwards. Along with a range of other coin-like objects, that encompass tokens, tickets, passes, jettons, historic medals and medallions, these objects are known collectively as “Paranumismatica”.

They go on to state that seventeenth century trade tokens are the most widely loved of all British tokens due to their personal nature and diverse range of subjects; they are individual and identifiable.  They relate to ordinary people who often can be identified, in parish registers (as in the case of this token) and local documents of the time. The tokens are generally small denomination pieces in various alloys of copper or brass struck between 1648 and 1672.  The authorities semi-officially tolerated the pieces when the official small change in circulation was inadequate.

A range of Post-medieval trade tokens recorded by PAS: Farthing token, private issue (top left, LON-FDA3BD); Halfpenny token, private issue (bottom left, LON-0958EC); Farthing token, civic issue (top right, LON-E3B1BB); Penny token, private issue, heart shaped (bottom right, NMGW-3768A7). Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme; CC-BY licence

The beginning of trade tokens was stimulated by the death of Charles I in January 1648 and the public dislike of the insufficient numbers and inferior low denomination coinage in circulation from 1613 to 1648.  Issues began initially in the Home Counties, spreading across Southern, Eastern England and the Midlands.  In Wales and the North, the rollout was slower and did not start before 1656 or later. In Scotland, however, the official coinage was deemed sufficient in both numbers and quality, and tokens were not issued.

The demise of the unofficial coinage was in response to an official edict issued in 1672 along with the introduction of an official robust royal copper coinage in enough numbers, causing the end of the unofficial privately issued coinage in England and Wales. In Ireland, similar tokens were also issued, mainly the penny rather than the farthing or halfpenny, but official coinage did not reach Ireland until 1680 meaning that tokens remained in circulation after their use ended in England, despite official discouragement.

The Token Correspondence Society observe that there are 14,000 different known types of token. They are predominantly round, but other shapes such as heart, octagonal and irregular shaped tokens exist.  The colour varies due to the alloy used, which is dependent upon the materials available.  The quality was wide and varied as there was no uniform standard, with the main criteria being, “What the public would accept and the whim of the commissioner of the token.”

My interest in trade tokens was sparked when a token from this period was handed in at a PAS Finds Surgery for recording on the PAS database (database number SWYOR-93C56E). It was pretty badly corroded, and only a few letters were visible, tantalising us with the hope that it could be identified. The most useful feature was that it said “THEIR HALF PENY” across the reverse, indicating that it was issued by two people. It is more usual for tokens to declare themselves to be HIS or HER half penny. This helped narrow it down, and after a lot of internet searching, I was able to discover that it was a token issued by Phineas Lambe and Thomas Hardwicke, dated 1666.

The token can be described as:

Obverse: *PH[INEAS] L[AM]BE.1666. Lion couchant within a pelleted border

Reverse: *THOMAS HARDWICK[E]. Within a border of pellets, THEIR HALF PENY in three lines above a central cross of pellets with a pellet either side.

This identification was confirmed by the Finds Liaison Officer in Williamson (1967) Volume 3, which lists the token as “Williamson Uncertain 49”. The Uncertain class is so-called because the town of issue is unknown, either due to unfortunately placed corrosion, or because the placename is omitted from the legend, as in this example. Individual tokens usually state the name and place of the issuer(s) along with their business on one side. The subject on the opposite side usually depicted the trade of the issuer. The symbols used had to cater to what was a predominantly illiterate society.  Unfortunately, at this point it has not been possible to identify the business of Phineas Lambe and Thomas Hardwick nor the significance of a couchant lion on their coin.

Trade token SWYOR-93C56E, the poorly preserved example that provided the inspiration for this blog. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service; CC-BY licence)

Robert Thompson in The Yorkshire Numismatist suggests that double named tokens were common in the Selby area of Yorkshire.  He could not attribute this token to the Selby area but he goes on to describe research that proves a strong family link with both men to St Peter’s Church, Leeds, discovered during his work on a similar item found in Driffield, East Yorkshire. Robert Thompson cautions that the better option is to confirm the town of issue by the legend on the token or by other means than genealogical pathways which he likens to a ‘lucky dip’.   However, he concedes that the two names, (one of them rare) are enough to attribute the token to Leeds in this instance. He used the classification, “Williamson Uncertain 49” for his similar piece, consequently assisting and supporting the identification of this token (SWYOR-93C56E).  Other examples found also accept this hypothesis and the recording of SWYOR-93C56E strengthens the case further. It was found only about 15km from Leeds, just over the county border in North Yorkshire, and these tokens are not thought to commonly circulate far from their place of issue.

St Peter’s Church, Leeds in a drawing of 1885. The church is now Leeds Minster.
Copyright: Unknown author / Public domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Peter%27s_Church_1885.jpg

It is believed by the Token Correspondence Society that most tokens were made by central manufacturers whose salesmen travelled around getting orders and arranging deliveries.  They go on to speculate that the only positively identified producer is David Ramage and argue that he was the largest manufacturer.  They imply that he resorted to malpractice to preserve his position in the industry.  Some of his pieces carry a “R” to indicate their origin and link to him.  They suggest (alas without positive proof) that the small marks, stars, flowers, diamonds and pellets on tokens could be indications of provenance rather than decoration.

From my point of view, the enjoyable part of working on this item was to formulate a strategy to successfully identify the token.  There are no other tokens of this type on the PAS database to draw comparisons with and the corrosion on the flan caused significant gaps in the readable text, thus generating the need to look for other sources.  My strategy of searching for the partial text on the internet was successful, opening the lettering on the flan to interpretation and eventually giving a location for the issue.  The similar token described by Thompson proved to be the key to this process.  One regret is that it has so far been impossible to research Phineas Lambe and Thomas Hardwick further, or to find the reason for their choice of the couchant lion on their token. The background provided by the Token Correspondence Society was enlightening, giving me an insight into a topic that was new to me. Hopefully my summary in this blog gives reasons for the concept, history and use of trade tokens in general and inspires others to develop an interest in them.

The supporting evidence I used included:

Dealing with Special Finds when the FLO Office is Closed

Merry Christmas from the SWYOR PAS team! Our office will be closed until 2nd Jan 2020, so what do you do if you find something special?


If you find potential Treasure, please email your local FLO with your name, the date of discovery, an image, and the findspot grid reference. Your email will prove that you reported the find promptly and the paperwork can be sorted in the new year.


If you find a hoard which is undisturbed, please STOP DIGGING! We know it is hard to wait, but it is best for the archaeology if it is professionally excavated. Take photographs and send them to your local FLO with the grid reference and your name. DO NOT post on social media – the fewer people know about your find, the safer it is.

Discuss your find with the landowner. If it is safe to do so, leave the hoard in the ground. Mark the findspot in a subtle way, take a GPS reading and backfill. Your FLO will advise you and try to arrange professional excavation in the new year.

If the findpsot is public and it is not safe to leave the find in the ground, you may feel that you have to lift it yourself. Go slowly, take lots of photographs, and look out for different coloured soils or other finds. Record anything you spot with measurements, drawings and photos.

If the hoard is in a container, keep it as undisturbed as possible. If possible, wrap the hoard and the surrounding soil in clingfilm, slide a metal sheet under it, and lift it in one block. That way, details from the inside of the hoard can be preserved. Keep the whole block in a cool place until your FLO can arrange help.

Some examples of good pratice

WILT-0F898C is a hoard of Roman vessels which were disturbed as little as possible and not cleaned, allowing plant remains to be recovered. These tell us the time of year that the hoard was buried.

Roman scale pan and contents. Copyright: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
A Roman scale pan from WILT-0F898C and the vegetation inside
Roman vessel hoard WILT-0F898C Copyright: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
The hoard had been disturbed as little as possible, allowing the relationship between the items to be understood.

BM-C33636 is a coin hoard which was left in the ground until it could be professionally excavated. The vessel containing the coins was wrapped in bandages and lifted in its entirety before being excavated and conserved at the British Museum. The coins were removed in layers, revealing whether they had been added in groups or in one episode.

X-ray of the Roman coin hoard
Copyright: The British Museum
BM-C33636 was x-rayed to help guide the excavation process
Roman coin hoard being excavated at the British Museum
Copyright: The British Museum
BM-C33636 undergoing excavation and conservation

Thank you!

#ResponsibleDetecting in this way makes a really positive contribution to archaeology. #BeAHeritageHero!

Have a lovely Christmas, and see you in 2020 to #RecordYourFinds. See the Artefacts and Coins page of the Yorkshire County Pages for a list of local Finds Surgeries where you can visit your FLO.

National Volunteers Week 2018 – Meet the South and West Yorkshire Volunteer Team

To celebrate UK National Volunteers Week (1-7th June 2018), we’d like to introduce you to the hard working volunteers in the South and West Yorkshire office. Jared, Jack, Ian and Phil are Amy’s dedicated team, tirelessly helping to record the 1000s of artefacts that pass through the office each year, with very little grumbling! Everyone at PAS would like to say a heartfelt “Thank you” to all four.

Jack describes his experience of volunteering in his own words below. His main role is to add finds to the PAS database, research them and write descriptions. Jack also finds time to serve on the committee of his local detecting club. He is also kind enough to help out with filing when needed too!

Ian and Phil have very different and specialised skills. They are the photography team. Both are keen amateur photographers, upstanding members of their respective camera clubs, but who knew very little about archaeology before joining the PAS team, so they have enjoyed a very steep learning curve.

Ian - PAS photography volunteer
Ian – PAS photography volunteer. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: CC-BY

Ian has bravely taken up the challenge of getting to grips with photographing flints, some of which are tiny microliths with extremely fine working which is very difficult even to see, let along show on an image. Flints are also often translucent, making them particularly to light effectively when photographing them. Ian photographs and then manipulates the images for a huge number of non-flint finds too. As well as giving up his time for the PAS, Ian is also the competition secretary for Ossett Camera Club.

Mesolithic Microlith SWYOR-0491F6
Mesolithic Microlith SWYOR-0491F6. Copyright West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: CC-BY

Like Ian, Phil also routinely photographs and edits huge quantities of typical finds, but he has focussed on developing the best ways to photograph objects of silver and gold, which are tricky because they are so reflective. As well as the record images that go on the PAS database, he also creates more artistic compositions of finds which can be used for publications and displays. Before joining PAS, Phil also volunteered for English Heritage at Brodsworth Hall as a room guide, and he now juggles both roles.

Silver seal matrix SWYOR-7392EC
More artistic image of a silver seal matrix SWYOR-7392EC. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License CC-BY
Phil - PAS photography volunteer
Phil – PAS photography volunteer. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: CC-BY

Both Ian and Phil come into the office to photograph finds, but they also undertake work at home, editing the photos they have taken. Additionally, they spend time at home editing photos that other FLOs send their way digitally. This work helps to improve the quality of some of the older or incomplete records on the PAS database.

All three volunteers have dedicated many, many hours to the PAS, both in the office and at home, and their contribution is hugely appreciated. Without their help, far fewer finds could be recorded onto the PAS database, and the quality of the images would certainly be much poorer. It is particularly impressive that all three of them combine their volunteering for PAS with other volunteer roles.

Jack - PAS volunteer
Jack – PAS volunteer. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: CC-BY

This is how Jack describes his experience as a PAS volunteer: “Hello, I’m Jack Coulthard and I have been a PAS volunteer for just over ten years now. I have no background in archaeology but studied history at university in the late 1960s and then taught the subject for a couple of years. After that I had a complete change of career and spent the rest of my working life in the computer software industry. Although that is about as far as it is possible to get from history and archaeology I never lost interest in either discipline. After retiring I took up metal detecting and first met our FLO Amy Downes when I took some items to one of her recording days.

When Amy had a vacancy for a volunteer with the PAS in South and West Yorkshire, I didn’t have to think very hard before offering my services as I knew it would be a fascinating experience. And so it has proved. I now help with the recording of artefacts and every day in the office brings something new, from common items like Roman bronze coins to spectacular things like the collection of Early Medieval gold rings that were unearthed on the outskirts of Leeds and are now on display in the Leeds City Museum.

The West Yorkshire gold and garnet hoard (2008 T553) SWYOR-F86A02.
The West Yorkshire gold and garnet hoard (2008 T553) SWYOR-F86A02. Copyright The British Museum. License: CC BY-SA

If I had to choose a particular period that I am interested in it would be a difficult decision but I would probably choose the Roman period because they were such amazing craftsmen. I am always amazed at the quality and variety of their brooches and have a particularly soft spot for enamelled disc brooches. But all the artefacts that cross my desk, whatever period they belong to, are fascinating in their own way and, as there is such variety, I often find that I am dealing with something that I have never seen before, so am learning something new all the time and am looking forward to learning even more over the next few years.”

Recently, the Volunteer Team has had a new addition. Jared has recently finished an MA in Medieval History and has joined the team mainly to help with administrative tasks, but he is also learning about finds and how to add them to the PAS database. We’ll get him trained up in no time!

Thank you Jack, Ian, Phil and Jared for your amazing contribution to PAS and for helping Amy – please don’t ever leave!

Searching for a Link

PAS self-recorder and one-time PAS volunteer Andrew Ramsden describes his research into die-linking on a particularly nice Medieval coin that was minted exactly 800 years ago this year.

“When I was invited by my local FLO, Amy Downes, to assist in the recording of hammered coins at her office, I jumped at the chance as not only am I very interested in English hammered coinage, but I am also more than happy to help the PAS in any way I can.

It was during a volunteer day with Amy that I came across a complete voided short cross silver penny amongst a batch of coins I was recording. I quickly determined that the moneyer was PERES and it was from the York mint and a class 6c3 of Henry III. However, the mint signature appeared to read EVERy; it was one that I wasn’t familiar with and it doesn’t appear in the book by Christopher Wren on the Short Cross Coinage. Initially I thought that there had been a flaw in the punches used to form the last letter as I knew there was a mint signature of EVERV. When identifying short cross pennies at home I use my copy of J. P. Mass, SCBI 56, to confirm anything I am unsure of as I consider this book to be the “Bible” on this particular coinage, but as Amy didn’t hold a copy of the book in her office, I suggested that I would consult my copy and confirm it with her via email should I find anything.

SWYOR-6672A0; Medieval penny of Henry III, Class 6c3
SWYOR-6672A0; Medieval penny of Henry III, Class 6c3
Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service
License: Attribution License

Sure enough when I consulted J. P. Mass there was indeed a mint signature of EVERy and it transpired that the York mint in this sub-class was a short lived one – there are only seven coins illustrated for this class and mint, and even better is the fact that of those seven coins, only two are of the same mint/moneyer/class combination. Upon closer inspection, the coin I identified appeared to match coin number 1881 VERY closely. When I viewed the illustration under my loupe I was surprised to see that it is near identical.

I contacted a friend called Tom Redmayne who is also a volunteer with the PAS and knows more about hammered coins than I have forgotten, to ask his opinion. Sure enough, he agreed with me and confirmed my opinion that I had in fact found a die link between the two coins. There is also a reverse die link with coin number 1880 and an obverse die link with coin number 1882.

For those of you who are unaware, let me take the time to explain what a die link is. At the larger mints, there will have been more than one pair of dies in operation at any one time. Two coins that are die linked are coins that have been struck from the same pair of dies and most probably by the same person. In class 6c3 there were only three main mints – London, Canterbury and Bury St Edmunds, and the mints of Winchester and York were added later and only very briefly. Only four moneyers worked out of the York mint and this coin is, I believe, an uncommon moneyer/mint/class/sub-class combination.

If you consider the number of coins churned out by any of the larger mints, and not only in this class, the likelihood of finding a pair of die linked coins is not very high. When you factor into the equation the brief operation of the York mint, the few moneyers working there and the fact that class 6c3 is a less common class for the York mint, then the probability of finding a single die linked pair of coins for this combination has to be reduced significantly. That’s why I am so excited to have found four die-linked coins within the space of three days (though granted, Mr. Mass did the hard work with three of them!).

After further research I have also found another obverse die link to a coin which is held at the Fitzwilliam museum, so all in all, from my identification of one coin it led to the linking of five coins that were conceivably all struck by the same person some 800 years ago. And people question why I like hammered coins?!

Obverse of CM.1290-2001; a York Mint Penny of Henry III.
Obverse of CM.1290-2001; a York Mint Penny of Henry III.
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Reverse of CM.1290-2001; a York Mint Penny of Henry III.
Reverse of CM.1290-2001; a York Mint Penny of Henry III. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Dr Martin Allen of The Fitzwilliam Museum has also read this article and has verified that my research is correct. He also pointed out to me that it is noted in British Numismatic Journal 33 (1964) by John Brand, in ‘Some Short Cross questions’ (p.67), that the specific dies for this class were supplied to the York mint on 3rd December AD 1217, so this coin will have been struck sometime thereafter, but not after AD 1218 as that is when the coinage of class 7a commenced.”

So, thanks to Andrew’s hard work and knowledge, we have identified links between 5 coins, and narrowed the date of manufacture of these coins down to just a 13 month period. An excellent result! The coin that triggered this discovery is recorded as SWYOR-6672A0 on the PAS database at https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/732496

Andrew has also summarised the main features he noted when matching the obverse of the coin to the published parallels:

i) The cross bar of the letter E breaks the crescent.

ii) Where the left hand upright of the letter N is punched higher than the right hand upright.

iii) Where the diagonal cross bar of the letter N terminates on the right hand upright.

iv) The size/style of the serifs on the uprights of the letter N.

v) The style of the letter H.

vi) The extra wide lower serif to the upright of the letter R.

vii) Where the central trefoil of the crown breaks/touches the inner circle.

viii) The 3 left hand hair curls.

ix) The general shape/style of the bust.

Yorkshire Finds Published in Britannia

A round-up of the most interesting Roman finds recorded by PAS in 2016 has recently been published in Britannia by our Roman National Finds Adviser, Sally Worrell. It features several special finds from Yorkshire.

Roman enamelled vessel
Roman enamelled patera. Copyright: York Museums Trust. License: Attribution License

A beautiful and colourful enamelled copper-alloy vessel was found at Eastrington (YORYM-20B68C). The handle bears the inscription VTERE FELIX (meaning ‘Use with luck!’) and was probably believed to bring the user good luck.

Roman P-Profile brooch
Roman P-profile brooch. Copyright: York Museums Trust. License: Attribution License

YORYM-4786D1 is a P-profiled brooch from Brantingham. It is a type believed to have been made on the Continent and used mainly by soldiers.

Roman Button and Loop Fastener
Roman Button and Loop Fastener. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: Attribution License

Finally, a rare type of button and loop fastener was recorded from Hampole (SWYOR-1CA6D5). It is the only one like it recorded on the PAS database.

Full details of all these finds can be seen on the PAS database.