Popped out at lunch to see the Silverdale Hoard of viking treasure

Folded sheet lead container with cut ingot bullion

Folded sheet lead container with cut ingot bullion

Since I am now back in the office and report writing for the foreseeable future I thought it was about time I went over to see the Silverdale Hoard which is currently on show at Lancaster City Museum until the 21st December (before being permanently housed at the Museum of Lancashire based in Preston). I really have had no excuse to do this as it is a five minute amble down there from my cluttered work desk. Apologies in advance for the hasty nature of my snaps.

The Silverdale hoard main display case

The Silverdale hoard main display case

The hoard was discovered in September 2011 by a metal detectorist sweeping a field in Silverdale parish in the north of the county of Lancashire and near to the present day border with Cumbria. It is the fourth largest viking hoard to be found in the UK at just over 1 kg in weight of silver, and when found it was in a pouch-like container fashioned from a folded sheet of lead. The hoard probably dates to just after 900 AD, and contains 27 coins, 10 arm-rings, 2 finger-rings, 14 ingots, 6 brooch fragments, a fine wire braid and 141 fragments of arm-rings and ingots which had been chopped up and turned into hacksilver.

Group of three nested arm rings with a combination of Irish, Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian-style decoration

Group of three nested arm rings with a combination of Irish, Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian-style decoration

Bullion ring or currency ring

Bullion ring or currency ring

A few notable items are the coin of an unknown ‘Harthacnut’ from the early tenth century, a name previously only known from coinage of the eleventh century son of the famous King Cnut, and another ‘fake’ silver plated coin. ‘Pecking’ a practice of chipping of piece of metal from the coin to test whether it is genuine, has often been observed, but until recently no forgeries have ever been found from the period, clearly indicating the efficiency of the practice.  Last but by no means least, is a nest of armrings, containing a stamped motif, directly paralleled by an armring fragment found in the Cuerdale hoard from Cuerdale, also in Lancashire, which dates to, and was probably buried, around the same time.

Broad band arm ring with triple pelleted triangular stamped decoration

Broad band arm ring with triple pelleted triangular stamped decoration

Penannular arm ring decorated with transverse bar stamps of double saltires

Penannular arm ring decorated with transverse bar stamps of double saltires

Arm ring with elaborate punched decoration and riveted repair patch

Arm ring with elaborate punched decoration and riveted repair patch

The beginning of the tenth century was a period of some instability on the coasts around the Irish sea. In 902 the Viking had been expelled from Dublin by the Irish, and seem to have looked to the coast of North Wales, and North West England for places to settle. The Wirral peninsula contains a wealth of viking age material from this period found at Meols on the coast, and the hoards at Silverdale and Cuerdale both date to shortly after this. It was an expulsion that was to last 15 years until finally in 917 the vikings reclaimed Dublin.

Group of silver coins including English pennies (and Viking imitations), Arabic dirhems and Frankish deniers

Group of silver coins including English pennies (and Viking imitations), Arabic dirhems and Frankish deniers

Selection of hacksilver

Selection of hacksilver

Hacksilver fragments cut from penannular brooches

Hacksilver fragments cut from penannular brooches

Hacksilver fragment of broad band arm ring

Hacksilver fragment of broad band arm ring

Silver chain or braid of fine knitted wires

Silver chain or braid of fine knitted wires

Special thanks should go to my colleague Adam Parsons for information about the context to the hoard. Please check out his viking blog.

There are better images of the hoard group from when it was all laid out that were posted on Flickr by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and other images of the opening of the display in Lancaster on the BBC News website.

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