Museum display completes homecoming for Edgehill’s rare Roman coins

A museum in Warwick is the new home for a rare hoard of Roman coins found near Edge Hill – thanks to the community.

Last week the collection of 440 silver Denarii coins went on display at Market Hall Museum after Warwickshire Museum Service raised £62,000 to get them transferred from the British Museum in London.

Cllr Heather Timms and Sara Wear holding some of the Denarii

Cllr Heather Timms and Sara Wear holding some of the Denarii

Cllr Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for environment, heritage and culture, said: “All of the councillors have been supporting the bid to get the coins back in Warwickshire.

“I think it is amazing that we have them in the museum especially when you think of the history of where they have been and how long they have been under that floor in Edge Hill.

“It gives you a really nice sense of history for the area. We have terrific examples of Roman history in all sorts of places here such as Brinklow Castle, Burton Dassett and Edge Hill. This Roman hoard will help to bring Roman history alive.”

Among the hoard are coins that date back as far as 147BC as well as 78 rare coins from the ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ in 68/69AD.

The Edge Hill Roman coins display at Market Hall Museum

The Edge Hill Roman coins display at Market Hall Museum

The hoard was uncovered during an archaeological dig at a Roman site in Edge Hill in 2015. They were buried in a ceramic pot over 1,900 years ago, under the floor of a building.

Sara Wear, curator of human history for the museum Ssrvice, said: “The reason why the hoard is so significant is because of the civil war coins from 68-69AD from the ‘Year of the Four Emperors’.

“It is the biggest collection found in one hoard in the country and it is amazing to have that in Warwickshire.”

‘Year of the Four Emperors’ is the period when the death of Nero in 68AD sparked a civil war, resulting in four successive rulers in a short span of time: Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian.

The jar the coins were found in

The jar the coins were found in

They each made their own coins and a few coins form this period survived.

It is believed that more than one person might have contributed to this collection. Ms Wear said: “This hoard shows wealth in Warwickshire really early on in Roman occupation.

“We are hoping to do a bit more research to find out more. Normally coins are found by people using metal detectors but this hoard was found during an excavation so this time we have context of where they were found.

“It could be that multiple people contributed to the hoard because it is so large. It could have been a family or group or a settlement. It could be a votive hoard – offered as a token to the gods as a payment or bargain.

One of the Roman coins. Photo by Warwickshire County Council.

One of the Roman coins. Photo by Warwickshire County Council.

“To put the quantity into perspective 225 Denarii would be around a year’s salary for a standard legionary soldier. So the hoard is equivalent to nearly two years’ salary.

“Some of the coins came from before 43AD. Some of this hoard and some coins from the first hoard date back to 147BC when they were in circulation in the empire until the point they were brought over by the new Roman administration to help pay the troops as there was no proper monetary system before the Roman invasion in 43AD.

“That money then went into circulation and was spent in various ways especially when more trade links were set up.”

Speaking about the fundraising, Ms Wear added: “We were able to get the coins thanks to grants from Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund and donations from the public.

“News of our fundraising campaign went worldwide.”

Richard Beleson from California, who has links to the British Museum, saw the appeal and asked if he could help and he made a donation.

“We went to get them from the British Museum and we got them on display as soon as we could because everyone has been so generous.

“It is really great to have them here and we would like to say a big thank you to everyone that helped contribute to get them back here.”

The hoard will be on the ground floor of the museum until July 6, before being transferred to the Origins to Romans gallery on the first floor.