Roman coins “find of a lifetime” in Shap field

Date: Friday 11th February 2011
The Roman coins found by Ian Hamilton.
The Roman coins found by Ian Hamilton.

A HOARD of 700 bronze Roman coins, described as the “find of alifetime”, has been discovered in the Shap area by an Eden metal detector enthusiast.

Ian Hamilton and the coins in the field where they were discovered and (right) the hoard.
Ian Hamilton and the coins in the field where they were discovered and (right) the hoard.

Ian Hamilton, aged 40, of Appleby, who works as a service engineeer for Dyson, discovered the coins six inches below the ground after he had asked the landowner for permission to try out his new detector.

“The field had been ploughed and harrowed. That is the only reason why I chose it as it is easier to dig a ploughed field,” said Mr. Hamilton.

He was on only his fourth outing with the new metal detector bought to rekindle a hobby he had taken up in his teens before stopping aged about 20 when he was alerted to something below the surface.

“I just knew it was somethingspecial,” he said. “But I was not expecting to find anything Roman in that field as it did not have anyhistory.”

His belief on finding a single coin that there could be more in the field proved correct. “I knew that after finding four or five coins this was something significant,” said Mr. Hamilton. At that point he got among the soil with his finger tips, as he suspected he might have come across a hoard.

“A container is often worth more than the coins themselves so I didn’t want to put a spade in, in case there was a clay pot or something like that,” he added. He telephoned his partner, Kath Dyer, and asked her to bring a camera to document hisdiscovery.

The bulk of the hoard was fused together in a lump which might have assumed the shape of a purse in which the coins were originallyconcealed. There was a layer of darkish earth around the coins which might have been the remains of decayed leather.

“To find a hoard is a once in alifetime event for any metal detector. There are guys that detect all their lives and never find anything like this,” said Mr. Hamilton.

After discovering the coins, Mr. Hamilton contacted the finds liaison officer for the area and they were sent off to the British Museum forexamination. Experts believed the hoard to be treasure and an inquest was held in October.

In a report to the coroner, Richard Abdy, from thedepartment of coins and medals at the British Museum, said the bronze coins dated from AD321 to AD340 and covered the later part of the reign of Constantine the Great (AD 306-37), the first emperor to adopt Christianity.

They constitute treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act as they are more than 300 years old and consist of more than 10 pieces. An undisclosed value has been put on the coins and the Penrith and Eden Museum has expressed an interest in acquiring them.

Mr. Hamilton, who has not seen the coins he found since they were sent to the British Museum, said it would be nice if they could go ondisplay locally. Any fee from thepurchase of the coins will be spilt equally between Mr. Hamilton and the landowner.