Buried treasure: seven precious finds

Awesome ancient riches discovered in the UK, and where to see them

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: Sheet gold plaque with birds of prey are displayed at a photocall for the Saffordhire Hoard at the British Museum on November 3, 2009 in London, England. The Staffordshire Hoard, found in July 2009 is the biggest archaeological discovery of Anglo Saxon gold for a generation (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

Do you dream of finding treasure? Here are some famous cases of treasure-hunters who struck gold, with details of where you can see their precious finds now…

Gold and silver metalwork from the Staffordshire Hoard. Picture: Getty Images

Staffordshire Hoard

BURIED: c. 7th century

FOUND: 2009, near Hammerwich, Staffordshire

The largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found, comprising 3,500 items, including 5.1kg of gold. It was discovered by detectorist Terry Herbert when he was searching an area of ploughed farmland. The collection includes decorations from swords and other weaponry, and was valued at £3.28 million.

SEE: Items from the Staffordshire Hoard are on display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, birminghammuseums.org.uk  More items are on display in Stoke on Trent and Tamworth – see staffordshirehoard.org.uk for details.

Possibly the best Viking-era find ever in Britain: the Galloway Hoard

Galloway Hoard

BURIED: c. 1,000 AD (research continues)

FOUND: 2014, Dumfries and Galloway

 “My senses exploded, I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system and away I went stumbling towards my colleagues waving it in the air.” This was how retired businessman and detectorist Derek McLennan described his discovery of a Viking arm ring on church land in Dumfries and Galloway, in a BBC interview. His find led to the unearthing of more than 100 ancient objects valued at £1.98m.  Described by National Museums Scotland as “the richest Viking-age collection discovered anywhere in Britain”, the hoard included valuable silver ingots, prized arm-rings, a silver pendant Christian cross, brooches, beads and a delicately crafted gold pin in the shape of a bird.

SEE: Items from the hoard were displayed at the National Museum of Scotland in summer 2017, but have now been sent away for an estimated two years for conservation. If all goes well, expects the hoard to be back on display some time from late 2019. Find out more at nms.ac.uk

The trove of copper-alloy coins dates from between 260 and 348 AD. Picture: RAMM

Seaton Down Hoard

BURIED: 4th century

FOUND: 2014, Near Seaton, East Devon

Detectorist Laurence Egerton chanced upon two ancient coins buried just under the surface of a field near Seaton. After further digging his find grew into a staggering 22,888 Roman coins – roughly equivalent to two years’ pay for a middle-ranking civil servant of the day, apparently – and the third largest such hoard ever recovered in Britain.

• SEE the Seaton Down Hoard at The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter, Devon. rammuseum.org.uk

at British Museum on February 10, 2015 in London, England. The coins and other finds are being shown as the Treasure Annual Report 2012 is launched. Under the Treasure Act 1996 there is a legal obligation for finders to report what they find to the state. The silver Anglo Saxon coin hoard containing around 5,200 items was discovered in Lenborough, England in December 2014.
The coins of the Lenborough Hoard were minted during the reigns of kings Aethelred the Unready and Cnut, around 1,000 years ago. Picture: Getty Images

Lenborough Hoard

BURIED: 11th century.

FOUND: 2014, in a field south of the town of Buckingham

Detectorist Paul Coleman found 5,252 late Anglo-Saxon silver coins worth £1.35 million. Read more about Paul’s discovery in our separate feature here.

• SEE 1,000 coins from the Lenbrorough hoard are on display at Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury. buckscountymuseum.org

A silver handpin and two bracelets were among artefacts that lay undiscovered for at least 1,200 years. Picture: copyright National Museums Scotland

Gaulcross Hoard

BURIED: c. 400-600AD

FOUND: 2013, Near Fordyce, Aberdeenshire

Alistair McPherson was working alongside National Museums Scotland when he discovered a hoard of Roman and Pictish silver in a field – the most northerly find of its sort in Europe. Among more than 100 pieces of silver were coins, brooches and bracelets. Alistair McPherson’s friends now simply call him “the Magnet”.

SEE: the Gaulcross Hoard on display for the first time as part of the exhibition Scotland’s Early Silver, which includes other precious finds. Until 25 February 2018 at the National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh. nms.ac.uk

The Ringlemere Cup was hammered from a single piece of gold, before the handle was added. Picture: copyright Trustees of the British Museum

The Ringlemere Cup

BURIED: 1700 to 1500 BC

FOUND: 2001, Ringlemere Farm, near Sandwich, Kent

Cliff Bradshaw discovered a beautiful Bronze Age golden chalice in a muddy field. The badly-crushed cup, decorated in a cordware style, would have originally stood 14cm high with a rounded base. It is one of only two ever found in Britain. The British Museum bought the cup for £270,000, the money divided between Bradshaw and the landowners.

SEE: The Ringlemere Cup on display in the prehistory galleries of the British Museum in London. britishmuseum.org

The Viking-era Vale of York cup is made of gold and silver. Picture: Getty Images

Vale of York Hoard


FOUND: 2007, near Harrogate, Yorkshire

David Whelan and his son Andrew were exploring a field when they discovered a finely engraved Viking bowl of silver. Their discovery inspired a full dig that uncovered the largest Viking hoard found in Britain since the Cuerdale hoard of 1840. The 617 silver coins and 65 other pieces of silver items were later valued at Valued at £1,082,000 by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee.

SEE: the Vale of York Hoard: Items from the hoard form part of a touring exhibition, Viking: Rediscovering the Legend, on display at the Djanogly Gallery  in Nottingham from 24 November 2017 to 4 March 2018, and after that in Southport, Aberdeen and Norwich. More details from yorkshiremuseum.org.uk


Main picture: The Folded Cross from the Staffordshore Hoard, courtesy Getty Images