First-time lucky for finder of St Albans Roman coin hoard
15:01 06 June 2013
A ROOKIE metal detectorist discovered the largest hoard of Roman gold coins found in the UK on his first-ever outing with the cheapest equipment he could buy, an inquest heard yesterday.
Wesley Carrington found the near-mint condition coins in Sandridge woodland near his home on September 23 last year and had relied on YouTube clips to know what to do after wanting to fulfil a childhood dream of finding buried fortune.
The treasure hunter told the inquest that after just 15 minutes of searching he found the first coin, which was a mere seven inches from the surface.
Within another 15 seconds he found another two coins, before finding the remaining 52 which were within three feet of one another.
Speaking at the inquest, Wesley said: “Once they all started coming out it did all really merge into a blur. I didn’t have to dig hard to find many more, the soil was very, very soft.
“I was probably supposed to feel more elated than I did but it’s not my game. I didn’t understand what I’d found, until I spoke to people who knew.”
He returned to the shop in Berkhamsted where he had purchased the metal detector and said to the owners he had something they might want to see.
Wesley said of the owner’s reaction: “He was a little bit gobsmacked. I’m quite surprised he’s still standing. He just said ‘you have no idea what you’ve found do you?’ So I said ‘not really’.”
The find was passed on to Julian Watters, finds liaison officer at Verulamium Museum in St Albans, and a dig was organised to recover the remaining coins, which amounted to 159 in total.
Most of the coins discovered were from the latter part of the Roman occupation and were of a fairly limited time frame.
Julian explained that as the coins were in almost mint condition, it was likely they were not in circulation and were probably a store of wealth.
The archaeologist found 20 or 30 of them during the excavation and admitted he was very lucky to be involved.
He said: “I still have dreams where I’m opening a ball of soil and finding a gold coin.
“Just to put the size of the find in context, in the 10 years I’ve been working, I’ve only seen four Roman coins on the job out of 50,000 finds.
“It’s right up there with our most special finds.”
He said of Wesley’s attitude to the unique discovery: “He seemed very laid back about the whole thing. I don’t think he realised the significance of it. He probably does now.”
Wesley said the excitement of the find eventually sank in after watching Britain’s Secret Treasures on ITV, but he added: “I won’t find anything like that again, I think I peaked too early!”
West Herts Coroner Edward Thomas ruled the coins as treasure due to their age and precious metal content, with each gold coin on average 22 carats.
He said they would now go to the British Museum for valuation and that he hoped the collection – one of the biggest finds in Herts for a number of years – would be acquired by Verulamium Museum to put on display.