The Chesterton Lane coin hoard

Contributed by The Fitzwilliam Museum

The Chesterton Lane coin hoard, as it looked pre-conservation. © Cambridge Archaeological Unit

The hoard was discovered in a hole dug by Anglian Water when working on Cambridge's sewage systemIn October 2000, archaeologists excavating a sewerage shaft in Cambridge discovered this remarkable collection of 13th and 14th century coins. Lying in the remains of a disintegrated wooden box, on the site of what was once a house, this hoard totalled 1,805 silver pennies and nine gold coins - a very substantial sum in medieval times, representing approximately £5000 in today's currency. Just after the Black Death, this money had been hidden by an unknown person; buried in a hole that was sealed with a stone, in a room that was then overlaid with a new clay floor.

The vastness of the amount hidden compared with similar finds suggests that its owner was one of Cambridge's wealthier inhabitants, perhaps a merchant - but why did this person bury such a huge sum, and then neglect to reclaim it? The motives that kept these coins hidden for over seven hundred years remain one of Cambridge's most enduring mysteries.

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