The Beau Street Hoard and Chemical Cleaning

Conserving and Sharing the Bredon Hill Roman Coin Hoard: Part 3

In April 2015 our team of volunteers who were working on the very slow and meticulous mechanical cleaning of the Bredon Hill Roman Coin Hoard attended the Beau Street Hoard symposium in Bath.

The Beau Street Hoard contains an estimated 17,500 silver Roman coins dating from between 32 BC and 274 AD and was found on Beau Street about 150 metres from the Roman baths at Bath in Somerset. The coins had been buried in leather bags, three of which contained debased radiates from the 3rd century. The debased coins had been successfully cleaned chemically rather than manually using Alkaline Rochelle Salts by a freelance conservator working for the British Museum.

Talking to members of the public at Worcestershire Archaeology Dayschool
Talking to members of the public at Worcestershire Archaeology Dayschool

Our progress had been so slow using only a mechanical cleaning method that we invited Lizzie, a conservator at Birmingham Museum Trust, who had trained our volunteers, for a day to train us in how to mix and safely use the chemicals required.

Coins are soaked in a bath of Alkaline Rochelle Salts and carefully timed. Too much time in the bath can cause irreversible damage. After the soak time has lapsed, the coins are rinsed in a sequence of water baths to remove any residual impurities. This is not a process to try without specialist supervision and appropriate health and safety training, processes and equipment.

Alkaline Rochelle Salts
Alkaline Rochelle Salts

We have now moved to a system whereby all our coins are cleaned in this manner and we select the best examples to mechanically clean to display standard. The process has been radically improving our chances of getting to the end of the cleaning process.

Treasure Plus funding will also mean that we can share information on the website and blog, we can give talks to both local societies and metal detecting clubs and we can display the hoard around the county.

Supported by the Art Fund and The Headley Trust

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