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History Beneath Your Feet

January 2919


Graeme Simmonds


History Beneath Your Feet


Once again we welcomed Graeme Simmonds to update us on the objects recovered form the local area in the last year. He started by reminding us that here in the East there are an above average number of finds, largely resulting from trade with Europe. Years ago people did not live in the kind of throwaway society so prevalent today. Possessions were valuable and therefore most of the items recovered were almost certainly lost rather than discarded. Today those items are still valuable; not necessarily in monetary terms, but from what they can tell us about the past. 


Anglo Saxon/Viking bridle cheek piece


Among several display cases was one considerably larger than the others. It contained finds from just three arable fields. Those particular fields were chosen for a search simply because there was a window in the crop cycle allowing access. There was no record of any buildings or activity on the site, but a large and very varied collection of items had been turned up. Clearly something had been going on, but what; and when? Time may tell.


Medievil dog lead swivel


Graeme often meets people who tell him, “Oh, I found something like that. I didn’t think it was worth anything, so I threw it in the hedge.” This seems to be a recurring conversation that Graeme has with people. A question from the audience: “Perhaps hedges are good places to search.” Apparently so: a Viking gold wire ring had been found in a hedge. On another occasion a farmer asked if someone could use their metal detector to find his lost hammer: what turned up was third century tableware. Another anecdote, this time from the magazine Treasure Hunter: the examination of a farmer’s field turned up what looked like a gold coin – in excellent condition. Previously indifferent, the farmer suddenly became interested. Further searching produced more coins. At this point someone mentioned that a film crew had been working in the field, filming the discovery of coins for the TV series The Detectorists. They had failed to ‘discover’ all the fake coins they had previously scattered.

Part of 6th cent.broach


On one particular site genuine coins had been found from a number of different countries. As well as England they originated from Belgium, Holland, Ireland, Scotland and Spain. The point was not so much about their place of origin, but in those times what mattered in trading was whether any particular coin contained the appropriate weight of precious metal, regardless of where it came from. It is interesting to think that years ago the head on a coin was probably the only likeness of the monarch that most people ever saw.

Saxon dress hook


Throughout his talk Graeme handed round a number of artifacts for us not only to try and work out what they were, but also to empathise with how the original owner might have used and valued those objects, thus giving us an insight into how people lived. There was a hook like object that in mid to late Saxon times served the purpose of a coat button. A second century broach. One half of a highly stylized 6thcentury crossbow broach, the surviving piece having been drilled enabling it to be reused, probably as a pendant. An Anglo Saxon/Scandinavian dragon bridle cheek piece. A small ring with a hole at one point: this was the swivel from a medieval dog lead, just like those we use today except that it had been decorated with two tiny dogs heads. Several coins. Several coin weights – used to check that the real coins had not been clipped. As always on these occasions, Graeme emphasized that any finds should not be cleaned as this could cause damage thereby loosing their value to historians.


Competition results for January.



1 Jane Dalton.

2 Chris Dalton.

3 Sue Cunningham.



1 Chris Dalton.

2 Jane Dalton.

3 Prue Szczepanowski.



1 Ed Szczepanowski.

2 Jane Dalton.

3 Chris Dalton.


Our Next indoor meeting will be on Wednesday 13thof February. Guy Barker will be talking about ‘Plant Propagation on a Need to Know Basis’.


Edward Szczepanowski




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