Gold record discovered in Norfolk: King Rædwald's golden helmet and 131 gold coins dating back 1,400 years discovered by amateur metal detector

Gold record discovered in Norfolk: King Rædwald’s golden helmet and 131 gold coins dating back 1,400 years discovered by amateur metal detector

The largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold coins ever found in England has been discovered in Norfolk, with 131 coins and four other gold object unearthed in all.

The hoard held more gold coins that the most famous discovery from this period — Suffolk’s Sutton Hoo — which produced 37 coins, two ingots and three blank discs.

Most of the Norfolk artefacts, which date back 1,400 years, were found between 2014–2020 by a single metal detectorist who has asked to remain anonymous.

The owner of the land on which the gold was found has also requested anonymity, meaning that the provenance of the coins is being described only as ‘West Norfolk’.

However, 10 of the coins were found by a second detectorist, David Cockle, who failed to report his discovery as required and tried to sell them for £15,000.

Mr Cockle, 54, was an active police officer — but was dismissed from his position after admitting to theft and being sentenced in 2017 to 16 months in prison.

Unfortunately, it was not possible for two of the coins he unearthed to be recovered, as they had already been sold and had disappeared into the antiquities trade.

A treasure inquest into the hoard — which experts believe was buried shortly after 600 AD — was held in Norwich yesterday, finding the coins the Crown’s property.

Experts told attendees at the inquest that the coins most likely belonged to a travelling merchant who deliberately buried them for safekeeping.

The largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold coins ever found in England has been discovered in Norfolk, with 131 coins and four other gold object unearthed in all. Pictured: some of the coins

The hoard (pictured) held more gold coins that the most famous discovery from this period — Suffolk’s Sutton Hoo — which produced 37 coins, two ingots and three blank discs

Most of the Norfolk artefacts (pictured), which date back 1,400 years, were found between 2014–2020 by a single metal detectorist who has asked to remain anonymous

However, 10 of the coins were found by a second detectorist, David Cockle (pictured), who failed to report his discovery as required and tried to sell them for £15,000

According to the experts, most of the coins are Frankish tremisses, but there are also nine gold ‘solidi’ — a larger coin, from the Byzantine empire, worth three tremisses.

The hoard also includes four other gold objects — including a type of stamped pendant known as a bracteate, a small gold bar, and two other pieces thought to have once been parts of larger items of jewellery.

At the point when the hoard was buried, England was not yet unified but divided into several smaller Anglo–Saxon kingdoms.

Of these, the Kingdom of the East Angles — which incorporated the areas today known as Norfolk and Suffolk — was one of the most important.

This region is also one of the most productive in terms of the finding of archaeological material by metal detectorists.

The previous largest hoard of coins ever found from this period was a purse discovered at Crondall, Hampshire in 1828 that contained 101 coins.

However, experts believe that the site had been disturbed before discovery and may have therefore originally included more coins.

‘This is a hugely important find,’ said the British Museum’s curator of Early Medieval Coins, Gareth Williams.

‘It is close in date to the famous ship burial from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and although it doesn’t contain as much gold as the whole of the Sutton Hoo burial, it contains many more coins. In fact, it is the largest coin hoard of the period known to date.’

‘It must be seen alongside other recent finds from East Anglia and elsewhere, and will help to transform our understanding of the economy of early Anglo–Saxon England.’

With the support of the British Museum, Norwich Castle Museum is hoping to acquire the hoard.

Mr Cockle, 54, was an active police officer — but was dismissed from his position after admitting to theft and being sentenced in 2017 to 16 months in prison

Unfortunately, it was not possible for two of the coins Mr Cockle unearthed to be recovered, as they had already been sold and had disappeared into the antiquities trade. Pictured: some of the gold artefacts that make up the West Norfolk hoarde

‘This internationally significant find reflects the wealth and continental connections enjoyed by the early Kingdom of East Anglia,’ said Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery’s senior curator of archaeology, Tim Pestell.

‘Study of the hoard and its findspot has the potential to unlock our understanding of early trade and exchange systems and the importance of west Norfolk to East Anglia’s ruling kings in the seventh century.

‘The west Norfolk hoard is a really remarkable find, which will provide a fascinating counterpart to Sutton Hoo at the other end of the Kingdom of East Anglia,’ said Norfolk’s finds liaison officer Helen Geake.

‘It underlines the value of metal-detected evidence in helping reconstruct the earliest history of England, but also shows how vulnerable these objects are to irresponsible collectors and the antiquities trade.’

‘The west Norfolk hoard is a really remarkable find, which will provide a fascinating counterpart to Sutton Hoo at the other end of the Kingdom of East Anglia,’ said Norfolk’s finds liaison officer Helen Geake. Pictured: King Rædwald’s helmet, recovered from Sutton Hoo

A treasure inquest into the hoard (pictured) — which experts believe was buried shortly after 600 AD — was held in Norwich yesterday, finding the coins the Crown’s property

Experts told attendees at the inquest that the coins most likely belonged to a travelling merchant who deliberately buried them for safekeeping.

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