Northern England Coin Traditions

Most of you know that I was a pit lad from the north-east of the UK. One Sunday in 1948 I unwittingly ‘stumbled’ across an old Durham custom. I was playing a game of football with my mates outside the magnificent wooden St. Andrew’s church. (Unfortunately, just before it was scheduled to be dismantled and rebuilt at the Beamish open air museum, it was torched by a thicket of local morons.)

St Andrews Church, Ludworth. Picture courtesy of David Cook

A lady carrying a baby in a white shawl emerged from the church, attracted my attention, and handed over a small package – with strict instructions not to open until I got home. 

My mother told me it was a christening gift and since I was a boy, the baby must have been a girl. I remember the gift contained salt, piece of fruit-cake and a silver florin, carefully wrapped in a paper doily. Looking back, I was very lucky to receive a florin ( two shillings ). On a later occasion one of my mates was first to receive the package and very disappointed to find only a silver sixpence.

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Necklace and Sugar Plumb (sic) Token

No groaning, please. You may have seen this stater on a previous occasion, but many haven’t.

When I was a rather inexperienced detectorist and found my first gold stater, I simply thought, “That looks rather nice,” and stowed it away in the pocket of my jeans. 

The use of the word ‘first’ suggests that there may have been more. I live in hope! With the benefit of hindsight and if a second is ever found, a ‘detector dance’ will be executed and ( I wrote at the time), the precious coin placed carefully and snugly inserted between two layers of foam in an old baccy tin, then tucked in the zipped compartment of my finds’ pouch. Time to phone Securicor to escort me home. If I want to show anybody in the field, it’ll take more extracting than an over-packaged Tesco tea bag.  Aye, that all comes with experience and learning. Even though I exaggerate a tad, you will understand my meaning.

Over the years I have regurgitated the next piece of advice in different forms and on many occasions. When you start detecting, ALL FINDS, whether gold or glass should be regarded as interestingly significant in their own way and should be treated as such. DON’T DISCARD ANYTHING until your knowledge has increased and you are absolutely 100% sure that it is the dross you originally thought it was. Although it embarrasses me to relate the tale now, I confess to discarding a large fragment of La Tène brooch thinking it as just another piece of old metal; so I do speak with some authority on the subject.

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