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16.02.2021

Alderwasley Hoard

Post-medieval hoard of silver coin clippings stored in an intact ceramic jar. The hoard contains coins of Philip and Mary (1553-1558), Elizabeth I (1558-1603), James I (1603-1625), and Charles I (1625-1649). These items were declared treasure trove at the inquest in 1972. Most of the carvings are all over the coins. The fact that the clippings were found in a ceramic jar probably indicates that they were intended to be recuperated and melted. The total weight of the coin clippings is 907.86 grams based on a report given by John Kent, then assistant curator in the Coins and Medals Department of the British Museum, at the Derby Evening Telegraph on March 18, 1972, although it was later described in the Portable Antiquities Chart as weighing "over 1 kg."
Each turn of metal would be painstakingly cut from the edge of the silver coin. The clippings would later be melted down and mixed with less valuable metals to create counterfeit coins and other items.

Cutting and counterfeiting coins was a common illegal activity in the 17th century, especially during the English Civil War of 1642-1651. Indeed, the Great Reconstruction, initiated by Parliament in 1696, decreed that all silver coins and clippings were to be recalled and replaced, indicating the extent to which clippings and forgeries constituted the currency in circulation during this period. Kent speculates that this storehouse of clippings may have been placed in the ground during the Great Return.

Several comparative examples are known from Derbyshire. In March 1846, at Beacon Meadow, Alderweisley, another hoard of coin clippings was discovered a few feet from this hoard and was found inside a ceramic vessel consisting of denominations of Philip and Mary, Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I. This hoard weighed 3.6 kg, and its contents were melted down to create a chalice, paten, flagstone, and alms for the local church. It is likely that these two hoards were collected and buried by the same forger. A similar hoard found in the Milnthorpe area of northeast Derbyshire.

The forgery has a known historical connection to Derbyshire. In 1676 Noah Bullock was apprehended for cutting and counterfeiting coins from a boat he built moored on the Derwent River near Morledge, Derby, which colloquially became known as "Noah's Ark." At the time, coin counterfeiting was punishable by death, though Bullock was spared the death penalty and acquitted, allegedly through a close friendship with the presiding judge, Recorder Dredge.

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