Conserving and Sharing the Bredon Hill Roman Coin Hoard: Part 1
In Autumn 2014, our group of long standing and committed volunteers at Museums Worcestershire began training in the cleaning and conservation of the Bredon Hill Roman Coin Hoard
The Bredon Hill Roman Coin Hoard was discovered three years earlier in June 2011 by two metal detectorists who had been detecting together for some time and found themselves in South Worcestershire at a time of year when most of the fields around them could not be searched because the crops were already high. The only field in their vicinity that was available was one that they had searched before in previous years and found very little. They referred to it as the boring field but there was nowhere else to detect so they decide to give it a try.
They hadn’t been detecting long when one of them got a signal from their detector. He dug down into the ground and found a horseshoe. Instead of filling the hole and trying elsewhere he put his detector back in the hole and got another faint signal. He dug down and found a Roman radiate coin, and then another, and another and another. The hoard was to number almost 4000 Roman coins and was discovered alongside the broken fragments of the pot that they had been placed inside.
The hoard was reported to our Finds Liaison Officer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme and declared treasure by the Coroner because it was more than 200 years old and contained more than two coins in association with each other. Precious metal content is also a characteristic of treasure finds but in this case the coins are made of copper alloy.
The hoard numbered 3,874 Roman radiates dating from the Emperor Philip II to the Emperor Probus (244-282 AD) within a Severn Valley Ware narrow mouthed storage jar. The group is broadly similar in composition to the many Romano-British coin hoards buried in the aftermath of the breakaway ‘Gallic Empire’.
Meanwhile funds were found at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service to fund a small excavation 3m by 3m around the findspot of the hoard. The detectorists who found the hoard were heavily involved over the week long excavation. The excavation brought to light much more information than had been expected. The hoard had been buried in association with a, previously unknown, sequence of Roman buildings. The soil layer through which the pit, in which the hoard was buried, was dug contained 64 sherds of fourth century pottery and lots of limestone, probably from a demolished building somewhere. This dates the burial to around seventy years after the coins were in circulation and at the time made this the only known Roman hoard to have been buried two generations after it was accumulated. Research has continued on this phenomenon as further examples have come to light .
As, a museum service, we decided we would pursue the acquisition, of this, the largest hoard ever found in Worcestershire and the stories it has to tell about life in the south of our county 1700 years ago.
So, we launched an appeal in October 2011 in order to acquire the hoard. The British Museum were really helpful and let us borrow some coins from the hoard to put on display at the launch of our fundraising campaign. This was pretty unusual at the time and we were very grateful for their support. With the help of donations from visitors and individuals and grants from the V & A purchase fund, the Headley Trust and Worcestershire Archaeological Society we were able to raise the funds to acquire the hoard within the deadline that we had been given
We always knew that we needed to achieve more than just acquisition. The coins needed to be cleaned and shared in the county. We applied for the second round of Treasure Plus Funding from the Art Fund in 2014 which has given us the opportunity to learn the skills required to clean the hoard as well as the resources to share and display the hoard. Over the coming weeks, our intention is to update you on the progress of the project to share and conserve the Bredon Hill hoard in a series of blog posts.