Rhagor - Opening our national collections

Coins from Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror found in Monmouth field

[image: Part of the Abergavenny hoard as discovered.]

Part of the Abergavenny hoard as discovered.

[image: Part-cleaned and fully-cleaned coins. Each coin measures about 2cm (0.75 inches) across.]

Part-cleaned and fully-cleaned coins. Each coin measures about 2cm (0.75 inches) across.

[image: Penny of Edward the Confessor struck by Estan at Hereford, around 1060. Measures 1.9cm (0.75 inches) across.]

Penny of Edward the Confessor struck by Estan at Hereford, around 1060. Measures 1.9cm (0.75 inches) across.

[image: Traces of the cloth bag, preserved in the mineralization. This image shows some of the stitching.]

Traces of the cloth bag, preserved in the mineralization. This image shows some of the stitching.

In April 2002 three metal-detectorists had the find of their lives in a field near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire: a scattered hoard of 199 silver pennies.

The hoard included coins of the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor (1042-66) and the Norman king William the Conqueror (1066-87). The hoard probably pre-dates the founding of Abergavenny near by in the 1080s.

The hoard was heavily encrusted with iron deposits, including traces of fabric, suggesting that the coins had originally been held in a cloth bag. It is not clear whether they had been deliberately hidden, or simply lost. Either way their owner was the poorer by a significant amount: sixteen shillings and seven pence (16s 7d, or £0.83p) would for most have represented several months' wages.

Minting coins

Anglo-Saxon and Norman coins form an unique historical source: each names its place of minting and the moneyer responsible. People had easy access to a network of mints across England (there were none in Wales) and every few years existing money was called in to be re-minted with a new design. The King, of course, took a cut on each occasion.

The Abergavenny hoard includes 36 identifiable mints, as well as some irregular issues which cannot at present be located. Coins from mints in the region, like Hereford (34 coins) and Bristol (24), are commonest, outweighing big mints such as London (19) and Winchester (20). At the other end of the scale there are single coins from small mints such as Bridport (Dorset), or distant ones such as Thetford (Norfolk) and Derby.

Hoards from western Britain are rare, so the Abergavenny Hoard has produced many previously unrecorded combinations of mint, moneyer, and issue.

We shall probably never know quite why these coins ended up in the corner of a field in Monmouthshire but, as well as expanding our knowledge of the coinage itself, they will cast new light on monetary conditions in the area after the Norman Conquest.


The coins were found covered in iron concretions and many of them were stuck to each other. This disfigured the coins and obscured vital details. Removing this concretion with mechanical methods, such as using a scalpel, would have damaged the silver, and chemicals failed to shift the iron.

The solution to the problem was found in an unexpected, but thoroughly modern tool - the laser. A laser is a source of light providing energy in the form of a very intense single wavelength, with a narrow beam which only spreads a few millimetres.

As laser radiation is of a single colour (infrared light was used in this case) the beam will interact intensely with some materials, but hardly at all with others. This infrared source was absorbed better by the darker overlying iron corrosion than by the light silver metal.

The laser was successful at removing much of the iron crust, but initially left a very thin oxide film on the surface. When this was removed, the detail revealed on the underlying coin was excellent; it was possible to see rough out and polishing marks transferred to the coin from the original die, as well as the inscribed legend.

Background Reading

Conquest, Coexistence, and Change. Wales 1063-1415 by R. R. Davies. Published by Oxford University Press (1987).

The Norman Conquest and the English Coinage by Michael Dolley. Published by Spink and Son (1966).

Article Date: 4 May 2007


annonomous on 31 March 2011, 09:46

this is a good website but i think there should be more info about the actual coins

Amgueddfa Cymru on 21 February 2011, 15:39

Dear Olivia,

Many thank for your comment, apart form the references at the base of this article, there isn't another book I can think of that deals with Anglo-Saxon coins.

Essentially, from the time of Edgar's reform in the 970s there was only one design of coin legally current at only one time. Usual designs are a portrayal of the king on the one side, usually crowned and perhaps with other symbols of authority such as the sceptre seen in the article above.

The reverse bears (usually) a version of the cross - both as a Christian symbol and as a handy guide to cutting coins to make smaller denominations (halfpence, farthings).

The coins were struck at a network of mints, and name the offical responsible and the place of production; the network made the process of recoinage more straightforward in terms of accessibility of the mints.

Around the time of the Norman conquest the system seems to have broken down to a degree, in that hoards such as Abergavenny can contain examples from several of the most recent issue-periods.

As to where they found, this unfortunately cannot be publicly stated, other than to indicate the Abergavenny area.

If you have more specific questions I could do my best to answer them.
Hope this helps

Edward Besly, Numismatist, Amgueddfa Cymru

Olivia on 21 February 2011, 11:58

Can i have more information of the Edward the Confessor coin eg. where they were found, what the symbols on them translate as and some background information.

Thank you.

Joe on 16 February 2009, 09:44

I feel sorry for the bloke that lost em'.

john jones on 3 November 2008, 12:14

I was one of the three detectorists who found these coins. I wonder after over six years when these coins are going to be put on display for dthers to see and enjoy.

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