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One of rarest Dark Ages finds - the Wem hoard - is declared treasure

By Sue Austin | Wem | News | Published:

One of the rarest finds of the British Dark Ages has been made in Shropshire - at a charity metal detecting event.

The Wem hoard is, experts say, one of only six finds in the country of hacked up silver and coins, the system of payment by bullion after the Roman left in the fifth century.

It was discovered when three metal detectorists made their way to the furthest corner of a farmers' field at the detecting rally near Wem last October.

So important was the find that archaeologists returned to the area last week and unearthed further silver remnants. The site of the find is being kept secret.

At an inquest in Shrewsbury today the coroner for Shropshire and Telford, Mr John Ellery, declared the find as treasure.

It is likely to go on show at either the town's museum at the Music Hall or at the Wroxeter Roman museum.

The organiser of the rally and the detectorists said that the find had been an incredible highlight moment.

Speaking at the treasure inquest, the county's finds officer, Mr Peter Reavill, praised the men for helping to unearth part of Britain's history.

"This is a hugely important discovery from the Dark Ages," he said.

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He said the 200 broken fragments included siliquae coins and a halved, well-worn denarius made in the first century and pressed back into service as a piece of bullion.

"The presence of a denarius in a hoard mainly comprised of siliquae is close to unique in Britain," he said.

Mr Reavill explained that when the Roman left Britain they took with them their coinage monetary system the people that were left in the UK could no longer use coins and so instead cut or hacked up silver, whether coins, jewellery, cups or rivets from boxes to used as weighed bullion. There were also pieces of melted down silver ingots.

The find also included a fifth century brooch that, Mr Reavill said had probably been used to pin together a piece of fabric or leather to carry around the silver. It has probably been hidden, under a marker stone or by a tree, by the owner, intending to return for it later.

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Once the crop on the field was harvested last month archaeologists returned to the land last week for a dig at the site of the find.

More fragments of hacked silver were found and are now being sent to the British Museum.

The organiser of the charity metal detecting rally, Mr John Parry, said the find was the culmination of six years of believing that there was treasure to be found on the land.

Steve Lord from north Wales and Steve King who lives near Chester, had been on car park duty at the Whitchurch Lions charity dig on a farmer's fields near Wem, last October and decided to walk half an hour across the the furthest corner of land away from the hundreds of other metal detectorists who were at the rally from across the country.

"We had been talking about the one thing neither of us had ever found was a Roman silver coin," Mr King said.

"We started detecting and I saw Steve bend down and pick something up and he said 'you will never guess what I have just found'. It was a silver coin."

Having taken the frequency of the coin, Mr King then continued and within seconds found the same frequency and other coin.

A third enthusiast, Andy Bijskerbosh, from Blackpool joined them.

"The beeping and finds brought us closer and closer together until we were standing over a small patch of earth," Mr King said.

"We put a probe in and the signals went off the scale so we dug down about a foot and a half. Eventually I put my hand down into the soil - and brought up a huge pile of silver and coins, with the brooch sitting right on the top. It was incredible."

Mr Lloyd said: "It was at that point we rang John Parry and said that he had better walk over to us and look at what we had found."

The trio, together with Mr Parry then started the process of contacting the finds office and laying out the coins where they had been found.

Mr Parry said he always believed that there was Roman remains on the land.

A metal detecting enthusiast himself he organises digs to raise money for charities helped by the Whitchurch Lions Club.

He said: "I had a feeling that one day we would find something there and I am so glad that it was such an important find and that we had responsible metal detectorists who did the right thing and reported the find."

Sue Austin

By Sue Austin
Chief Reporter

Chief reporter of the Oswestry/Mid Wales office. Keen to hear your news.

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