Rare hoard of Roman coins saved for St Albans museum

The Roman gold coins

The Roman gold coins - Credit: Archant

A rookie metal detectorist will share the bounty of a £100,000 fortune after selling a hoard of Roman coins found on his first search.

Wesley Carrington found the near-mint condition coins in Sandridge in September 2012 after purchasing the cheapest metal detector equipment he could buy.

He, along with the land owner, who remains anonymous, sold the find to St Albans district council for display in Verulamium Museum.

The 159 coins were bought for £98,500, which will be split between Wesley and the owner of the land.

The purchase of the coins was made with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust, and anonymous individual donors.

Cllr Annie Brewster, portfolio holder for sport, leisure and heritage at the council, said: “What an incredible story. These beautiful solid gold coins are a rare and significant find as no similar hoards of this period or size have been found in the UK.

“I am delighted they are staying with us permanently as a result of many people’s passionate support and generous financial backing.”

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Fifty-five of the coins were found by Wesley, with the other 104 discovered following an investigation on the site by archeologists.

The first coin was found just seven inches from the surface, 15 minutes into his search.

He told an inquest in 2013: “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 coins date to the closing years of the fourth century and the start of the fifth.

They would have been of great value in Roman Britain, and evidence suggests the collection formed part of a buried hoard that may have been disturbed by ploughing. Roman people would often bury coins for two reasons: as a sacrifice to their God, or as a form of secure storage when faced with war or a long journey.

The coins will be on display in the museum from mid-September.