AWESOME AMPULLA :-)

When a pilgrim had visited a shrine, and made their prayers to the saint, they would often known as a pilgrim badge . . .or an ampulla filled with holy water.

The rather unusual ampulla found by detectorist Des Milkins of the Weston Historical Research and Detecting Association (Whrada) was unearthed in a field. How did it get there?

Imaginative Writing

Sometime during the 15th century a weary pilgrim returned from his visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham to his home in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. In one of his fields he carefully took the lead ampulla containing holy water and suspended on a cord around his neck, pierced a hole in the side, and allowed the liquid to flow onto the soil.

I assume for the purposes of this account, that the pilgrim was a man, but could equally have been a woman. He was tired because the journey, now easily accomplished in a few hours by car, had taken three days on foot, but he’d had the company of others providing both companionship and protection.

How do I know all this, and just how much is just conjecture and imaginative writing? Seasoned detectorists know the story because many have found discarded ampullae in fields (and from shrines other than Walsingham). The holy water sprinkled on the soil was to bless the crops and ensure a good harvest.

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CURIOUS, PECULIAR, and COMIC COINS

Read about the king who went into battle naked, the unusual threepenny bit – and more! Displays better on a computer or tablet.


Into Battle Naked

The catalyst for this piece was a comment in an old 1924 newspaper by art critic John Ruskin on the old type of sovereign. I wonder if, in the eyes of some people, the coin was made to look comic through lack of knowledge or skill of the designer? St. George is shown fighting the dragon with a sword the size of a carving knife, his feet bare, and wearing a helmet. Seriously, would you go in to battle like this?

“As a design how brightly comic it is! The horse looking abstractedly into the air, instead of where precisely it would have looked, at the beast between its legs: St George, with nothing but his helmet on (being the last piece of armour he is likely to want), putting his naked feet, at least his feet showing their toes through the *buskins, well forward, that the dragon may with the greatest convenience get a bite at them; and about to deliver a mortal blow at him with a sword which cannot reach him by a couple of yards, or, I think, in George III’s piece, with a field-marshal’s truncheon.”

John Ruskin –  *A buskin is a calf-high boot of leather.
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CANADIAN RELIC

“I’ve never heard of those before. “Neat find”. . . “Very cool find – I’d be thrilled with that one” . . . “I assume they were popular things in the past”


If you don’t know what the artefact is and cannot guess, then read on

Canadian Metal Detecting

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Most of the finds made by our Colonial Cousins may seem inconsequential and somewhat insignificant to the UK detectorist. Canada may not have the history that English detectorists dig up, but often what they DO find can be interesting and adds social interest and understanding to the past.

The last time I visited the forum, a post by Vlad (Lonely Wolf) drew my attention. Judging by his heading this was a relatively common find and he was looking forward to unearthing another. This is what he said and the pictures he posted.

. . . Just wanna share another cool relic. First I thought it was a spring scale, then a gun powder dose measurer – but nope. It turned out to be a coin bank or coin holder for dimes from 1940s, and can hold up to 5 dollars. 

Lonely Wolf: Signature – ‘History is waiting for those who are looking for it.’
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Northern England Coin Traditions

Giving coins as christening gifts was (is?) a very popular way of wishing new babies well. Most people know about traditions but how many are national and how many are just carried out locally?
The picture below shows a sixpence – aka a ‘tanner’. © JW

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

This advert is so delightfully worded and cheerfully revolting. The eye-catching newspaper ads of the day show exactly what might be gnawing at your intestines. Source: The General Advertiser 1748.

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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The gloves are on . . . or are they?

Weil’s disease (Leptospirosis) is usually caught through contact with soil or water contaminated with animals’ urine . . .

Steve Redgrave’s gold medal partner killed by rats’ disease: Rower dead in days from water-borne illness . . .’

That was the headline I read in a 2010 newspaper about Steve Redgrave’s rowing partner, Andy Holmes, dying of Weil’s disease. Another story warned of deadly bugs lurking inside our dishwashers, and a killer strain of E.coli in vegetables. It got me thinking about the unseen hazards associated with detecting! The World Health Organisation described the strain of lethal bacteria that killed 18 people in Europe as ‘very rare’. Britain reported seven cases. And now we have all the potential dangers of COVID-19.

Weil’s disease is usually caught through contact with soil or water contaminated with animals’ urine

Are you one of those who habitually use your mouth as a coin cleaner or eat your sandwich without washing your hands first? Are you a cavalier detectorist who boasts that you have never met anyone who has subsequently died, think it’s all a scare story and have never met a farmer who wears gloves when muck-spreading? Then my advice is to beware and maybe think twice. Picture shows Andy Holmes and Steve Redgrave showing their medals from the 1988 Olympics.

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