'What all detectorists dream of' - Shropshire hoard of Roman silver coins declared treasure

A metal detectorist has spoken of the "exciting and mind blowing" moments when a hoard of 337 Roman silver coins he discovered were revealed.

Detectorist Darren Booth with some of the coins found near Gobowen
Detectorist Darren Booth with some of the coins found near Gobowen

Known as the Gobowen Hoard, the collection has been recognised officially as treasure, which will be valued and made available for sale to Shropshire Museums.

Darren Booth discovered the first of the coins in a ploughed field in September 2019, a treasure inquest held in Shirehall, Shrewsbury, heard. Archaeologists were called in to reveal the remainder of the hoard, with the oldest of the coins dating back to 209BC.

After seeing the first coin, Mr Booth said he "spent a good few minutes just staring at it in excitement. I put it in my finds box, filled in the hole and moved on. "

But it wasn't to be the end of the excitement for Darren, a member of the HSS Mold (Historical Search Society, Mold).

The Gobowen Hoard after clean up. Pic: British Museum Trustees

He has been been metal detecting for five years and in September 2019 he was out in the fields near Gobowen on a dig organised by the club.

"I have found some amazing finds such as hammered coins, my oldest one being from the 15th century," he said.

"But the Gobowen hoard is by far my oldest and best find."

Mr Booth said that on the day he had no plan of action but "just went the opposite way to everyone else to avoid other detectorists".

Within 20 minutes he picked up his first signal. It was "loud and crisp." Being ploughed the ground proved easy to dig.

"After removing the first small spade=full of soil, I could see a silver coin in the spoil," he said.

A 3D image of the Gobowen Hoard. Pic: British Museum Trustees

"As I picked it up and brushed off the loose soil I could see a bust facing right. I had never found any coin like this before but judging by the thickness and the Latin inscription, I knew it was a Roman coin."

Then, within a few feet Mr Booth had a similar signal, but didn't even consider it may be another Roman coin.

"After just scraping the top soil with my boot, there was another one but with a different bust staring up at me," he said.

"I couldn't believe it, two within a few feet. At this point I did start to wonder if it may be a coin spill.

"I picked up the coin and put it in the box with the other one."

It went on and on.

"A quick swing of my detector to check the hole, and there were a couple more of similar signals.

"I turned the soil over one by one and before I knew it I had found a few more all within a swings radius of the spot of the second coin.

"As I had found more than three silver coins that were over 300 years old, I knew this was a classed as Treasure.

An X-Ray of the Gobowen Hoard. Pic: British Museum Trustees

"I checked the immediate area and there were signals everywhere."

The club then taped off the area, searched and dug all the signals. Within an hour they had more than 60 coins.

Later there was another "deep, faint signal".

"What was revealed will stay with me forever," said Mr Booth.

"I could see lots of coin edges all stacked on edge, and they were silver.

"I felt very emotional, excited but also knew that I had found something that all detectorists dream of.

"Then it hit me that I was the first person to see and touch these coins since they were placed here at least 1,900 years ago."

The dig in action at the Gobowen hoard: British Museum Trustees

The excavation was carried out by archaeologists the following week.

"The following week I attended the excavation and it was so exciting and mind blowing to see the hoard getting revealed and to see them close up," said Mr Booth.

On Tuesday, Senior Shropshire and Telford coroner John Ellery did not reveal the precise location of the find but described how Mr Booth had acted responsibly in contacting the authorities.

The coins were taken to the British Museum in London in February 2020 where they were chemically cleaned. Some of the silver denarius had lost some of their surfaces through corrosion but otherwise they were found to be in a reasonable condition.

As he reeled off the names of the Roman Emperors and leaders named on the coins Mr Ellery remarked that it was a good reminder of the history of the times.

More than 270 of the coins were dated back to the days of the Roman Republic, before the empire was taken over by dictatorial emperors. Five were associated with Mark Antony, a friend of Julius Ceasar and of Antony and Cleopatra fame who lost a civil war to Augustus.

There are also coins from the reign of Tiberius and Vespasian, who was responsible for building the Colosseum in Rome.

Mr Ellery, who was sitting at Shirehall, said: "My conclusion is that Gobowen Hoard is treasure.

"It will now go to a valuation committee and will eventually be on display at Shropshire Museum."

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