Home History Roman Relics at Darfield – Workmen’s Lucky Strike

Roman Relics at Darfield – Workmen’s Lucky Strike

January 1947

South Yorkshire Times, January 18, 1947

Roman Relics at Darfield
450 Silver Pieces in Earthenware Urn
Workmen’s Lucky Strike
1800 Years Old Cache On Unearthed

James Fowler (20) bricklayer, 66, George Street, Low Valley, was digging a trench on the North Street Housing site at Darfield on Friday when his shovel struck an object about 15 inches from the surface. He noticed a “jar” full of money.

At that time he little knew that he was responsible for one of the most interesting archaeological discoveries made this part of the country for some years. That is how it was afterwards described by Mr JW Baggaley, director of the City Museum, Sheffield, who was called in for expert assessment of the value of the find.

Coroner Notified

The coins numbered 450 and were contained in an ancient urn of hard pottery about the size and thickness of a coconut shell. They were handed to Mr Cyril Gray, Surveyor to Darfield UDC, who took them to the Council offices, when Mr Baggaley examined them very carefully the following day. The police later took charge of the find and notified the Coroner. Mr Baggaley said “This looks like being a case of treasure trove.”

Mr Baggaley went to the spot where the urn was discovered about 140 yards on the South West side of the Doncaster to Barnsley Road and three or 4 feet from the back door of a house in course of erection. He explained to the workmen the significance of the find, urging them to keep a sharp lookout for any further fragments of pottery. The top half of the urn was broken off and Mr Baggaley himself was able to find a section which enabled them to complete the ring, showing the exact shape and size of the vessel. On the outside of the urn were fine incised diagonal lines forming a diamond pattern. In Mr Baggaley’s presence another coin was found.

Soil to be sifted

The urn was immersed in dry loamy soil and covering it were large stones which appear to have been put there for protection or to mark the spot. The workmen are to carry out Mr Baggaley’s suggestion that all the soil lifted from the trench be carefully sifted in the hope of finding other kinds of fragments of pottery. The houses all being erected for the local authority by Messrs Hey and Murfin, of Wombwell by whom Fowler and John Gill (22) of Brampton St, Wombwell (who was with Fowler when the find was made) are employed. Fowler is naturally curious as to what he is entitled to in connection with the find. He was recently demobilised from the forces.

Covered with verdigris which had powdered into the bottom of the perfectly dry urn, the coins were coagulated in lumps but were easily broken apart. Two cleaned by Mr Gray were quickly identified by Mr Baggaley as being the head of the Roman emperor Antonius Pius (131 – 161 A.D.) They proved to be all silver Roman coins of the period 100 – 300 A.D.

Another coin bore the features of a woman – either Faustina, wife of Antonius Pius, or Faustina II, wife of Marcus Aurelius, who reigned until 18 A.D. He later identified the coins belong to the period of the Vespacian Trajan, Marcus Aurelius and Maximinimus (AD 238).

The coins were in a remarkably good state of preservation, as will be seen from the accompanying photographs. Picking up one:, Mr Baggaley said, “it looks as though it might be struck yesterday.”

Speaking to the workmen, whose interests he quickly aroused, Mr Baggaley said, “In those days, there were no banks, people kept their money buried in pots like this. When all the coins have been cleaned and identified it will be possible – by taking the dates of the latest coins – to guess the date when they were buried.”

Inquest to be Held

Colin, bullion, gold or silver found hidden in the earth must be reported to the Coroner, who under a 600 years old statute, holds an inquest on the find to decide or not it is treasure trove. Concealment of finds of this kind is an indictable offence. It is expected that the find will be sent to British Museum authorities for further examination.

Many ancient relics have been turned up at Darfield from time to time, but this is the first time a discovery of this age and magnitude has been made in the district.

The spot where the urn was found was formally open ground and must have been ploughed over in years gone by. It is believed that the ancient highway from Tankersley to Ackworth passed nearby and thence down the bridal path to Little Houghton.