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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Cumbrian man unearths Roman treasures in field near Silloth

An amateur sleuth with a metal detector has uncovered the haul of a lifetime in a Cumbrian field.

John Murray photo
John Murray

John Murray, 66, was amazed to find 308 Roman coins, some thought to be nearly 2,000 years old. The hoard was concealed in a smashed pot a few feet below the ground at Beckfoot, near Silloth.

It is the second major Roman find in Cumbria, following the Crosby Garrett helmet which was unearthed by a metal detectorist last May.

Bearing the heads of various emperors, the coins have been taken to the British Museum for restoration and analysis.

And they have been officially classed as treasure.

Mr Murray, of Beckfoot, said he made the find by accident as he walked home after an ‘unsuccessful’ hunt.

He said: “The farmer had been ploughing and he’d hit some big stones. We knew there was Roman activity in the area, so I went to have a look – but there was nothing.

“So I decided to go home for some lunch. I was walking diagonally across the field when I heard the metal detector make a nice noise.”

Just a foot below the surface the first coin appeared and the machine revealed more was to come. As the treasure kept emerging, Mr Murray called Maryport’s Senhouse Roman Museum to alert them to his discovery.

He added: “There was a big uprising in Europe at one stage and all the Roman soldiers were called over to fight. I think someone probably buried these coins thinking they’d be able to come back and get them.”

Discovered on April 10, 2010, the coins have been classed as Crown property under the Treasure Act of 1996.

They were officially granted that status following a treasure trove inquest heard by north and west Cumbria David Roberts at Whitehaven Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

When they have been valued, Mr Murray and the owner of the field will find out if they are due any reward.

“Archaeology takes up a lot of my time these days,” said Mr Murray. “I got into it by taking part in digs at Vindolanda fort. I like the history side of it – somebody owned those coins and I’m asking what happened to him.”

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