Anglo-Saxon coin find near York is 'jaw dropping'

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Image captionThe small coin was found at Fulford on the the outskirts of York

A rare coin found in York by a man who took up metal detecting a week before has been described as "jaw dropping".

Experts at Yorkshire Museum said the coin was 1,400 years old and is one of only 19 ever found.

The Anglo-Saxon gold shilling was one of the first coins minted in York and is believed to be worth between £5,000 and £7,000.

It was found at Fulford, near York, by Ian Greig who had only bought a metal detector a week previously.

Mr Greig said he was initially unaware of its importance.

Image captionThe coin dates from the mid 7th century and was struck in York

"It was not until a friend of ours, who I had emailed, came back with some pictures of very similar coins that we realised what we had found and its historical significance."

Andy Woods, curator of money and medals at Yorkshire Museum, said the coin, which is smaller than a five pence piece, was a "one-in-a-million" find.

"When Ian first brought it in to me my jaw absolutely hit the floor. It is the first coin ever made in York."

He said: "It was made sometime around 620 to 650 AD and they are incredibly rare. This is only the 19th example of this type of coin ever found."

Mr Woods said the coin had a human figure holding two crosses on one side which might represent Paulinus, the first Bishop of York.

"We cannot say that for certain but it is the right time and the right place."

As the coin was found on its own it is not classed as treasure under the Treasure Act so ownership rests with the finder and the landowner, Fulford Parish Council.

Mr Greig said despite an offer from a private collector he would prefer it to be on public display and is in discussions with Yorkshire Museum about them acquiring the coin.

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PHOTOS

 

 

Eighth-century church architecture

 

This is the sort of architecture, beautifully preserved here, that Begiloc encounters on his travels. In Chapter 2 of The Purple Thread he sits on a bench ignorant of Latin and church ritual and gazes at the building surrounding him. Now there's a thing. I enjoyed visiting this Piave in Tuscany in 2015. It dates from the eighth century and has been preserved in its entirety. It inspired my description of the priory church at Werham. In the first draft, the description was over two pages long - so much did I enjoy visiting the church. When reason took over from emotion, the description got reduced to the pulpit (one-third of the original (!) and a capital ! Well, the setting is important, but the action and dialogue even more so. I hope you like the pictures. I'm not the best photographer - not even in our village!

 

 

A while back we went to Northumberland on holiday. Pity the weather was not conducive to brilliant photography, because an obligatory stop was the abbey at Hexham. Fortunately I was able to get some decent pictures inside the abbey, famous for its Saxon crypt and I’d like to share them with you.

In his book England’s Thousand Best Churches (Penguin Books, 2000), Simon Jenkins wrote: “Few churches in the North of England equal the spectacular interior and monastic relics of Hexham.”

There has been a church on this site over for 1300 years since Queen Etheldreda made a grant of lands to Wilfrid, Bishop of York c.674.

The Saxon crypt and apse of Wilfrid’s Benedictine abbey still remain.

The crypt is a plain structure of four chambers. Here were exhibited the relics which were a feature of Wilfred's church. It consists of a chapel with an ante-chapel at the west end, two side passages with enlarged vestibules and three stairways. The chapel and ante-chapel are barrel-vaulted. All the stones used are of Roman workmanship and many are carved or with inscriptions. It’s quite an experience to go back in time as you descend the steep steps that lead into the narrow chamber – not recommended to claustrophobics!

 

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Hexham (continued)

The church also contains some interesting early sculptures: at the west end of the nave, a glass case holds fragments found in 1907. They show a crucifixion and an ecclesiastic and probably came from near Monkwearmouth, perhaps carved in the monastery there about 675-700. Some of the stones were once part of the richly decorated building, fragments of frieze or pillar, screen or furnishing. The walls and arches bore colourful patterns and scenes with animals. The Northumbrian monks were subject to different sources of inspiration. This can be seen in the various Celtic-type interlacing, the Germanic writhing animal shapes, Roman vine-scrolls all probably copied from Anglo-Saxon illuminated manuscripts. With the decline of Wilfrid’s Abbey most of the carved stones disappeared, looted for other buildings or smashed for ideological motives. Some of the surviving stones still keep traces of paint.

 

One of the most interesting features of Hexham is the frith stool, a solid block of sandstone carved in the shape of a low seat. The stool may date to the 7th century and may come from the Roman fort at Corbridge, where Wilfrid obtained many of his building materials.

The stool may have served as an early cathedra, or bishop's seat. Frith stools were used as a place of sanctuary; anyone who managed to reach the frith, such as a criminal fleeing justice, could not be touched until they were granted assurance of justice and fair treatment.

 

Another Saxon relic is a small copper and gold chalice, or cup, discovered in a stone coffin during renovations in 1860. The chalice was probably used by Saxon clerics to celebrate Holy Communion. It is on display in a protective glass case, but you can get close to admire the intricate workmanship.