The Alnwick and District Local History Society welcomed Ian Glendinning to its October meeting to talk about the hidden history of the Coquet Valley which he has unearthed using a metal detector. His talk was both fascinating and surprising, and suggests that the history of the area needs to be rewritten to some extent.
Mr Glendinning has long had an interest in history, but wanted to make contact with the people of the past. So, he started using a metal detector a few yards from his home in the Harbottle area and has found many items from all periods of history.
His oldest find is a broken gold ring of the Bronze Age (around 1300 BCE). This was the pommel of a dagger. It is bent, having been prized off a dagger – a spoil of war. From the Iron Age was a terret ring, from a two-horse chariot.
Numerous Roman artefacts have been found. Fragments of a brooch and a bell (to ward off evil spirits?) suggest domestic occupation, while some high status coins found are very surprising.
There is a silver denarius of Marcus Aurelius, which was never circulated, and a seventh century Byzantine bronze coin minted at Carthage. Historians tell us that there was no fiscal economy in the Coquet valley at that time, so how did this coin get there? Also problematical, a hoard of coins from the Flavian period, in near mint condition, have also been found. These are currently being catalogued at Newcastle University.
Coins provide very good dateable evidence. A very large number have been found.
Many are of such high value, that it is likely they were dropped by rich merchants.
The find of a jetton, a counter used on a flat abacus, is futher evidence for a market here.
A particularly interesting find was a gunpowder measure, of a type used by Cromwell’s New Model Army. Nearby a Charles I sixpence was found, and a large number of musket balls. Was this the site of a previously unrecorded skirmish of the Civil War?
Several thousand Georgian and early Victorian coins, mostly bronze, have been found. There were also huge numbers of metal utility buttons! The quantity lost is surprising, and suggests that there was a massive re-population from the 1700s when the border troubles were over.
Ian Glendinning also enjoys field walking, and has found many Neolithic and Bronze Age flint tools. All his finds are recorded, under the Portable Antiquities scheme. A database can be accessed on the internet, and its information is now proving a useful research tool.
The next meeting of the Society will be held on Tuesday, November 27, when Angus Collingwood Cameron will be talking about the history of farming in Northumberland.