Wold Newton Coin Hoard

Our Speaker Dr Andrew Woods enthusiastically described the recent Wold Newton coin hoard as one of the largest and best excavated coin hoards in Britain. Not only that, it dates from a period of turmoil within the Roman Empire and he showed how it reflects much of what we know about this period.

In 293 AD the Roman Empire was split into four regions each with a local emperor, the Tetrarchy. Emperor Constantius has to battle local rebel generals to reunite his region comprising Britain and Gaul. He achieves this by 296 AD, and in 305 York becomes the base for both Constantius and his son Constantine the Great. The Tetrarchy falls apart about 310 AD and Constantine the Great battles on to rule the whole of the Roman Empire by 324.

Coins sit on the boundary of history and archaeology and Andrew showed us how they relate to this story.  The nearly 2000 coins in this hoard were removed layer by layer by conservators from the Crambeck ware pot in which they were found. Each coin gives the name and seniority of the emperor and the town they were minted in.

Almost half the coins were minted in Trier, which was a base Constantius and Constantine used during their campaigning. Andrew surmises that they brought coins from here to York as coins from Trier are less common in southern Britain.

Seven valid emperors prior to Constantius are represented but none from the rebels defeated by Constantius. Andrew feels the rebel coinage had been removed from circulation by Constantius.

The newest two coins found at the top of the pot were struck in 307 or 308. One commemorates the death of Constantius (306). The other shows Constantine as a senior emperor, a position he achieved in December 307 after a two year period of instability.

The oldest coins were found at the bottom. Clearly the hoard had been added to over a period of time ending in 307.  The value of the hoard equates to about 4 years wages for a farmer or legionary soldier.

The field in which the hoard was found has produced many other finds suggesting there was a Roman settlement at Wold Newton. There are significant Roman finds around the villages south of Wold Newton, and indeed a large coin hoard of a similar date was found in Langtoft, also with an unusually high proportion of Trier coins.

Most of the coins hoards dating to after Constantine leaving Britain have been found in southern Britain, suggesting a move in the Roman power base south from York after his departure.

Dr Andrew Woods is senior curator at the Yorkshire Museum in York. The hoard is displayed there and is well worth a visit.

The Prior Garry Sunley asked Linda Ellis to give the vote of thanks.  She congratulated Andrew for his well explained interpretation of the hoard which gave us a glimpse of life around 300 AD in Roman Britain.