A small portion of the Durham County Hoard (more popularly known as the Neville’s Cross Hoard) of silver coins will finally be going up for auction in the U.K.
The specific site where this group of coins was dug up, for which it was appropriately named, has historical significance dating to 14th century. The collection of silver groats was buried in a pottery jug somewhere near tree roots at the site of a medieval battlefield. The hoard contained 280 coins, only 14 of which are slated to be auctioned in London. They were discovered by a man named Markey in 1889.
The whereabouts of the rest of the cache are still an utter mystery, as is the explanation for why they ended up buried where they were. One might speculate that their owner in Scotland, fearing their plunder following the Scots’ loss at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, hid them in the hopes of returning later to retrieve them.
Background of the Neville’s Cross Hoard
Neville’s Cross was the site of a famous battle between the English and the Scots around 1340. Experts believe the hoard of coins was buried there in the late 1370s. The mix of coins contained in the lot to be auctioned reflect this cross-fertilization (albeit through warfare) between England and Scotland.
The group of 14 coins coming under the hammer includes silver Scottish groats from the time of King David II (r. 1329-1371), as well as silver English groats from the time of King Edward III (r. 1327-1377).
A groat is the name given to medieval coins from England and Scotland, made of silver, that carried a value of four pence, or four English pennies. (As is the case with many obsolete coin denominations, such as thaler or guinea, there were many other groats minted in Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Italy, and other parts of Europe that bore the same name with varying values.)
Although Mr. Markey’s discovery was publicized at the time and researched by antiquarian Sir John Evans shortly after they were unearthed, any other information about the original hoard has been lost to the sands of time. They are likely dispersed throughout various collections and will never be attributed ex post facto without extensive research.
Markey, an avian enthusiast, stumbled upon the substantial find while looking for birds’ nests at Neville’s Cross near the Browney River. The coins were stored in a pottery jug buried among the roots of a tree. Apparently Markey sold all but a small amount of the coins (presumably the 14 now available for sale) to a pair of prominent Durham antique dealers at the time.
The current batch of groats are finally going to represent the Neville’s Cross Hoard on the London auction block for the first time. They were ostensibly passed down directly from Mr. Markey to the previous owner’s wife, from whom the current seller purchased them 2 years ago. More information about Markey is now being sought for clues to the rest of the hoard.
Appraisers at the auction house Dix Noonan Webb estimate each of the 14 coins will fetch prices ranging from £100 to £400 ($142-$568). They will be sold separately, though they are sure to retain the Neville’s Cross Hoard pedigree.
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