The Doric Columns
St Nicholas St/Netherkirkgate, 17th November 1807a good number of Silver Coins, chiefly of the Edwards of England and Alexander of Scotland, had been found in the course of the street now opening from George's Street to Union Street [St Nicholas Street]. A 2nd deposit of the same kind was found on Tuesday morning. The workmen in digging the site of Dyer's Hall, found an earthen jar, containing nearly some 1,800 pieces of various reigns and values. They are for the most part Silver Pennies (Denarii) of Edward I, II and III - some of Alexander III of Scotland - and, it is said, some of Robert, whether I or II, we know not. Of those of Edward I, some are of the Dublin coinage, the King's Head in a triangle, and having on the obverse, "CIVITAS DUBLINIE"; and some; in addition to the titles of Rex Angliae and Dominus Hyberniae, have Dux Aquitanie. Many of the coins are of base metal, (the nigra monetd) but some are of very fine silver - and the greater part are in excellent preservation.
A silver coin of Queen Elizabeth, bearing the date 1563 was found amongst them. 'A boy employed in washing away the earth from some of the smaller pieces, found the coin in question, a teston, which he took for a common shilling
Mr G. M. Fraser, librarian of the Public Library, Aberdeen, has contributed to Vol. III. of the *' British Numismatic Journal," 1907 a most interesting chapter on the above subject. The following are abridged extracts from it:-
There are isolated examples of these discoveries north of Aberdeenshire ... a coin of Titus c.AD80 being dug up at Forres in 1848, and on another occasion a coin of Claudlus Gothicus, AD 268-370. found at Cullen.
In 1860 a Greek coin of Nero, struck at Corinth, was found at Burghead, and about a year since a coin of Marcus Aurelius at Mortlach Banffshire, also a copper coin of Antoninus Pius. AD138; and about the same time a gold coin of Vespasian was found at Inverurie. But the largest find of Roman coins in the region was by the banks of the Dee. about 10 miles west of Aberdeen. About 8 miles from the City is the site of a military camp, known locally Norman Dykes, but its structure as a Roman Fort is attested by certain features in its construction. It was in the immediate neighbourhood of this that many years ago a number of earlier coins were found in a moss. Their precise denominations do not appear to have been ascertained beyond the fact that they were coins of the Empire, and the supposition is that they had been buried when Agrlcola was on his return march from the north. Not far from where these Roman coins were found, several billon pieces of Mary and Francis were recovered in 1811. A number of other archaeological discoveries have been made in the district, which is notable as having been a seat of the Knights Templar's.
The Shoe Lane Hoard
A large discovery of coins of this character was made la the City of Aberdeen itself. In digging for the foundation of premises near Marischal College, workmen came upon 3 bags 2 of leather and 1 of canvas, buried about 3 feet below the surface, and containing several 1,000s of billon coins, namely, Lions or hardheads of Mary and Francis of date 1568, but most of them were in poor preservation. How they came to be buried there cannot be stated with certainty. but it is probable that they had been concealed as a temporary expedient by one of the Monastic houses of the City - Greyfriars perhaps.
11 Shoe Lane, Aberdeen; May 1847 - 'The other day, as some workmen were employed in digging the foundation for an enlargement of Messrs J Smith and Co, Iron Merchants, in Shoe Lane, they discovered a large number of small copper coins, which were buried some 3 feet below the surface. The coins had been put into 3 bags, one of canvas, and 2 of leather - very much corroded - and weighed, in whole, about 2cwt. They are almost all of one kind, apparently what were called bodies - each weighing about one-sixth of a farthing of the present day. They belong to the earlier part of the unfortunate Mary's reign, bearing on 1 side, the letters FM, joined monogram-wise, surmounted by the crown; and on the other, a lion ambulant, also crowned. The letters are the initials of the Queen's Christian name, and of her husband's, Francis, Dauphin of France. The legends are nearly illegible; but, on the 1 side, there seems to be DVIEN+ET. M.A.; D.G.R. SCOT.; and on the other, VICIT. VERITAS. One small silver coin has been discovered in the pose, bearing on one side, a shield with a co-quartering of the arms of Scotland and France; but the device on the other side, and the inscription are effaced. A few of the coins survive in the collections of the Marischal College Museum, and can be dated to the period 1558-60. Fraser's suggested date of 1559 for the deposition would seem to be based purely on the date of issue of these coins, and the possibly fortuitous location of the hoard within the presumed limits of the Franciscan Friary (Fraser 1906, 330). He conservatively gives the number of coins as 'several 1,000s', but a cache of 2 cwt of lions or 'hardheards' would contain about 87,400 coins, and represent about £546.00 Scots. Obviously, any attempt to estimate the size of the hoard on the rough and ready estimate of its weight given above would be purely speculative; however, this calculation serves to underline the fact that this was clearly a very sizeable deposit of low denomination coinage. Perhaps a more instructive way of looking at this quantity is to realize that 2 cwt, or 16 stone of hardheads represents about 2-7% of the recorded output of these coins by the Scottish mint for the year 1558. It is also possible to compare this estimate of the size of the hoard with the known annual income of Friaries in Aberdeen for 1561. Unfortunately, that of the Franciscans is not recorded, but the minimum for the Trinitarians was £54.00, for the Carmelites (possibly) £96.00, and for the Dominicans £108.00. Thus, if the hoard had any connection with the Franciscan Friary (as suggested by Fraser), then it would seem to represent a very large share of their fortunes - almost the equivalent of 5 years' income of their wealthiest rivals in Aberdeen.
A very small, 90% copper 10% silver, this coin is called a Lion or "Hardhead". At the time it was worth 3 halfpence Scottish, or the equivalent of a French Denier. This coin was issued during Mary's very short marriage to Francis, the Dauphin of France in the late 1550's, and has the FM logo that reflected the dual monarchy of France and Scotland from 1558-1560. However, despite the miniscule denomination of this coin, it was heavily counterfeited. Unfortunately for collectors, very very few coins, notably some gold coins, and some silver Testoons, were ever issued with Mary's portrait on them. Most coins were issued with her monogram or that of her and her 1st husband, Francois of France.
Hard Head. A name given to a Scotch billon coin 1st issued in the 3rd coinage of Mary (1555-1558). The term is a corruption of the French Hardit. Some authorities refer to this piece under the name of a Lion, from the lion rampant, crowned, which it bears. These coins, originally of the value of one and one half Pence, were struck to afford relief to the poor, who suffered much loss on account of the lack of small change. Under James VI the value was raised to 2 Pence, and indicated by two pellets. The Hard Head was discontinued in the reign of Charles I.
Hardi, or Hardit. An Anglo-Gallic silver and billon coin issued by Edward III, King of England, and copied by the French Kings as Dukes of Aquitaine. It bears on the obverse a half-length figure holding a sword.
St Nicholas Street Hoards
Many other minor discoveries of coins have been made in Aberdeen during the 19th Century. In 1807, when Union Street had just been formed, and a number of old buildings were being cleared away to form St Nicholas Street, workmen came upon a wooden vessel. about 10 feet underground. containing a large quantity of silver coins. While they were yet available, a number of the coins were identified as of the mintage of Edward I. of England and Alexander III. of Scotland. As no one in authority took an interest in the find, the coins were quickly scattered. A week later, in almost the same spot. workmen discovered an earthen jar containing about 1800 silver coins, also of Edward I and Alexander III, and fortunately, possession of these was taken by the Authorities, and they were lodged in the Town House these coins formed part of the treasure of the Army of Edward lll, whose troops operated in Aberdeen and the neighbourhood from about 1330 onwards and in 1336 completely burned down the town.
St Nicholas Street, Aberdeen; 30th November 1983 and 2nd May 1984 - 2hoards found 3-5 m apart during the construction of the St Nicholas Centre. Both were contained in pottery jugs; the 1st hoard consisted of approximately 4461 coins, the 2nd of approximately 2550. The study of these coins has recently been completed.
Aberdeen (St Nicholas Street 1983) HOARD A hoard of 4461
pennies, mainly of Edward I/II and Alexander III, was found in a
pot on a construction site at the end of November; publication being prepared by
N Mayhew. In AM.
Two hoards were found 3.5m apart during the construction of the St Nicholas Centre. Both were contained in pottery jugs; the 1st hoard consisted of approximately 4461 coins, the 2nd of approximately 2550. The study of these coins has recently been completed
4500 coins of Alexander II (1249-86), Edward I (1273-1307), Alexander II (1249-86) and Robert the Bruce (1306-29) were discovered in November 1983 during trench-digging for the development of a shopping centre. Scottish and English coins were found together (this being common at the period on account of the low volume of coinage then minted in Scotland) at a depth of 12ft (3.66m), and they were quite muddy when discovered.
Two hoards found 3.5m apart during the construction of the St Nicholas Centre. Both were contained in pottery jugs; the 1st hoard consisted of approximately 4461 coins, the 2nd of approximately 2550. The study of these coins has recently been completed
4500 coins of Alexander II (1249-86), Edward I (1273-1307), Alexander II (1249-86) and Robert the Bruce (1306-29) were discovered in November 1983 during trench-digging for the development of a shopping centre. Scottish and English coins were found together (this being common at the period on account of the low volume of coinage then minted in Scotland) at a depth of 12ft (3.66m), and they were quite muddy when discovered. 2500 coins of 13th/14th century date were found in similar circumstances on 1 May 1984 only yards from the site of Marks and Spencers. All are silver pennies although there are a number of metal alloy forgeries. The hoard (which has been declared treasure trove) is similar to that found in 1983 but displays many variations in type and condition. It is believed that St Nicholas Street was a commonly-used place for the hiding of money by citizens in the 13th and 14th centuries.
2500 coins of 13th/14th century date were found in similar circumstances on 1 May 1984 only yards from the site of Marks and Spencers. All are silver pennies although there are a number of metal alloy forgeries. The hoard (which has been declared treasure trove) is similar to that found in 1983 but displays many variations in type and condition. It is believed that St Nicholas Street was a commonly-used place for the hiding of money by citizens in the 13th and 14th centuries.
A find of was made in 1827, at Footdee, on the eastern extremity of the City of Aberdeen, near the Ferry, which was one of the 2 points of crossing the Dee to and from Aberdeen until the 16th century. Some workmen were digging a sewer, when they unearthed a considerable bulk of gold and silver coins. A contemporary description tells that " the greater part of them were silver, larger than a shilling," and such as were examined at all critically were set down as coins of the earliest Edwards. The coins were deposited under some stones which had evidently been carefully placed over the treasure for security.
Wellington Street, Footdee; 13th January 1827 -'On Thursday last, whilst workmen were digging a common sewer in Wellington Street, Footdee, near Waterloo Quay, about 3 or 4 feet under the surface, they turned up a quantity of gold and silver coins, so considerable as sufficient to fill a hat. In the scramble which this discovery immediately occasioned, the greater part of them were carried off by the workmen, and others who happened to be near the spot, so that only a few of the pieces could be examined, and these so defaced and corroded as to make it very difficult to determine whether they were British or Foreign. The greater part of them were silver, larger than a shilling; and in the opinion of some acquainted with ancient coins, who have inspected those now found and in the best preservation, they are English coins, among the 1st of the Edwards, while some few are said to be of a far more recent date. Part of the silver coins were of a smaller denomination, rather less than a sixpence, as were the few gold pieces. Both the latter were much wore and defaced, but seemed to correspond with the larger coins of the most early date. The treasure was found under some stones, seemingly placed for its security, and in the site of the lower part of the old fish-town of Footdee
Clarence Street, Footdee; August 1867 - 'In the
course of last week, while the labourers employed by Messrs Duncan and Murray,
contractors for the Footdee Sewerage works, were excavating the old sewer
in Clarence Street, immediately behind the Northern Agricultural
Company's premises, one of them turned out a jar containing a large
number of ancient silver coins. It is impossible to state accurately the number
of coins, as they seem to have got into inappropriate hands. Unfortunately
the jar was accidentally broken by a workman's pick, and before either it, or
the coins were observed, they were shovelled up and scattered about among the
earth on the edge of the cutting, where many of them, it is believed, were lost.
There is supposed to have been nearly a 1,000 of them altogether. The great mass
of them were of the same description - as thin as an old
sixpence, and only a little larger. They bear on the face a crowned head,
encircled by the letters EDW. R. ANGL. DNS. HYB. + ; the reverse is intersected
by a cross, forming large spaces. In each of which is 3 stars, and around this
design are the words - "Civitas, London". Where the jar was dug out, it seemed
to have been embedded in a vein of blue clay, about 7 feet from the surface, and
within 4 feet of an old wall, the soil above it being sand. The jar was of red
clay, about 4 or 5 inches in diameter, and about 6 or 7 inches high. Another
jar, of a smaller size, was found near the same spot, made of yellow clay.
Unfortunately it was broken, but it appears to have had no lid or opening of any
kind, and was like as may be a middling-sized turnip. It contained nothing. Most
of the coins, we may state, were appropriated by the workmen, and the best of
them have in consequence been lost sight of in this way. None of them, it would
seem, know that the Government claims all such old coins as "treasure trove",
for which they give to the finders the value of the metal in return.
It would be curious if no discovery of coins had been made in the neighbourhood of the Check Raw or Exchequer Row, Aberdeen, the small street, still known by this name, where the Aberdeen Mint stood throughout its history. As a matter of fact no find of coins actually struck at Aberdeen has ever been made there, although coins of the Aberdeen mint are not uncommon, chiefly groats, and half-groats of the Davids, and, fortunately, they may be examined in the British Museum, as well as in local collections. But in the adjoining small and old street that runs from the Exchequer Row (Check Raw) to the harbour, named the Shiprow (Ship Raw) - whilst some repairs were being made to an old house, dating from the Reformation (1560), quite a quantity of coins and 332 trinkets was discovered. Most of the coins were copper 2 penny pieces, or turners, of Charles I., and in all probability they had lain hid in this old house - which was once the residence of a Provost of Aberdeen - from about the date of their mintage.
Provost Ross's House, 44 Shiprow, Aberdeen; pre-1886 - 'A curious collection of old coins and buttons was found in one of the rooms, where a stone had to be removed to allow of some repairs being made. The majority of the coins were Scottish 2-penny pieces of the reign of Charles 1
The Bronze Pot Hoard - Upperkirkgate
4 Ross's Court, Upperkirkgate, Aberdeen; 31st May 1886 - Over 12 000 silver coins contained in a 'bronze' pot were buried in a close on the north side of the Upperkirkgate.
A large hoard of 13th-14th century silver coins contained in a 3-legged large Cauldron was found at a depth of 4ft by workmen digging in the pavement in front of the premises of Messrs King & Co, Printers, Ross's Court, Upperkirkgate on 31st May 1886. The coins ranged from Alexander III (1249-86) to Edward III (1327-77) and were mostly English although Scottish coins up to the reign of Robert I (1306-29) and foreign sterlings were also present. The original number of coins is not known but 12,267 were recovered, representing one of the largest hoards found in Scotland. Most of them were returned to Aberdeen by The Exchequer, but Queen Victoria, the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) and BM acquired representative selections. The pot and some of the coins are in the Art Gallery and Museum, Aberdeen.
An initial report by a
local journalist on this discovery appeared on Tuesday 1 June
1886: a more detailed account by a
'correspondent who has carefully examined many of the coins', appeared the
following day. This second report was clearly written by a numismatist, and
contains quite detailed descriptions and identifications of the various mints;
however, the tenor of the piece is rather spoilt by the fanciful ending:
The most important treasure trove of Aberdeen - indeed, the largest find of coins that has ever been made in Scotland - was the discovery of the locally celebrated "Bronze Pot" On the 31st May, 1886, workmen were busy excavating foundation works in the Upperkirkgate, when the foreman drove his pick into some hard substance that gave out a sharp metallic ring, and examination brought to light a bronze pot, from which, through the hole that the pick had made, a small stream of silver coins began to make its way. The treasure was, as usual, and, indeed, with great probability, set down as part of the pay chest of one of the English armies that swept over the north of Scotland about the middle of the 14th century. The magnitude of the treasure quickly brought on the scene the officials of the Exchequer. and the pot and as many of the coins that could be taken possession of were deposited for examination to the Exchequer Offices, Edinburgh. Altogether complete coins to the number of 12,247 were recovered, and fragments of about 20 others, making in all 12,267.
A number of the coins, 62 in all, were purchased by Her late Majesty, Queen Victoria, viz.- 10 of Berwick, 12 of Bristol, 4 of Chester, 12 of Durham, 3 of Exeter, 4 of Waterford, 1 of Aquitaine, 12 of Alexander III., 2 of Robert Bruce, and 2 of John Baliol. 405 of the coins, including specimens of all the mints, were handed over to the National Collection of Antiquities, Edinburgh, leaving 11,800 coins for further disposal, as also the bronze pot,
It was arranged that on recouping the Exchequer for the reward money, £139 odd, Aberdeen should have not merely the bronze pot and the 129 selected coins, but the whole residue of the Treasure Trove, after supplying certain local collections throughout the country. This arrangement was carried out in 1891, and on the 30th of May of that year the Lord Provost of Aberdeen received a parcel containing 10,742 complete coins, and fragments of 20 others, 10,762 in all, for preservation and distribution. The "Bronze Pot" a most familiar name to the citizens of Aberdeen was preserved in the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum. It is of bronze, of a type which still survives to us in the so-called gipsy kettle, and when the treasure was buried, a stone had been placed in the mouth of the pot for a lid.
Globular copper-alloy cauldron with a capacity of about 7 litres. It stands 28 cm high, and has an aperture of 185 mm, and a maximum diameter of about 27 cm. It has a sharply everted rim, and a well-defined flange at its basal angle. The body of the vessel has been cast in a two-piece clay mould over a clay core; the vertical casting-seam lies at right-angles to the position of the vessel's handles, and the blob left by the casting-pipe can still be seen on its base. These casting-seams have been partially disguised as shallow vertical 'beads' or ribs; 2 lie on top of the seams, whilst another 2 have been placed at right angles, in line with the handles. The upper part of the vessel is also decorated with 3 shallow girth-grooves. The 2 triangular handles (or 'ears') and the 3 cauldron feet were almost certainly cast in one piece with the body, by inserting false cores into the mould; all of the feet have pronounced casting-seams on their undersides and mould marks on the inner surfaces of the legs. The vessel displays a number of peculiar characteristics which suggest that the mould from which it was cast was badly worn, and had been repaired: the groove which runs around the base just above the points where the legs are attached is most singular, yet its curvature is broken by the legs. Similarly, the girth grooves higher up the vessel, and the thinness of the top bar of the handle all suggest that the mould was very worn, and it seems reasonable to suggest that its base had been repaired after a breakage. When found, the vessel was complete, except for 'a small hole on one side'; in the course of uncovering it, a 'workman's pick struck off one of the legs, which in separating, carried with it a portion of the adjoining metal. The cauldron has now been conserved and restored. The pot is of the ordinary form of the bronze culinary pots, with 3 feet, and triangularly shaped ears for suspension by a semicircular iron handle with loops at the ends. Several fragments of clay moulds found recently in the Gallowgate, Aberdeen, show that copper-alloy cauldrons were being cast locally during the later 13th century. A reportedly similar vessel to the Upperkirkgate cauldron was dredged out of Loch Kinord, Aberdeenshire, during the last century
Mr Fraser has treated his subject with much lucidity, and we congratulate him upon being the 1st to furnish an exact record of the denominations and distribution of the so called "Bronze Pot” coins.
Balgownie Crescent, Bridge of Don; 20th November 1937 - 197 coins in a pottery jug. The find circumstances are not clear, but traces of a building and a cobbled floor were found on the same site. The newspaper accounts claim that a silver plate and a silver statuette had been unearthed there earlier in the week. Alien, in his publication of the hoard, suggested a date of c 1466 for its deposition (Alien 1940; Kerr 1939); however, Kerr, in his initial note on the discovery, suggested that it might have been a year or 2 later, and this has been corroborated by a recent study of the coins
Binghill, Peterculter; pre-1795 - 'A Mr Watson, Advocate in Aberdeen who farmed the lot of Binghill or Bingle, supplied the following information: In one of the plantations a Druid's temple was discovered which I inclosed. Near to it there is a large tumulus, or cairn, which, it is said, was once the burying place of the ancient family of Drum, my farm having been their family seat some centuries back. In digging up the foundations of some walls, which were said to have been part of the mansion of that family, my workmen found near a handful of silver coins, about the same size of sixpences, inscribed Davidus Rex' It is curious that the reporter gives the Latin form of the King's name which does not, in fact, appear on his coins. Perhaps Mr Watson's professional familiarity with the language caused him to remember the name in that form.
Newburgh, Aberdeenshire A note in Treasure Hunting
magazine for February 1984,47 mentions a large number of Scottish and
foreign coins found on the beach here: 2 appear to be Mary hardheads 1555-6,
one with countermark; also 'a Greek coin which has been dated to 350 BC'.
Mill of Maidencraig, Lang Stracht, Aberdeen; 13th October 1858 - 'On the 13th current, some labourers making excavations for a New Mill Dam at Den of Maidencraig, 3 miles from Aberdeen, on the Skene Road, came upon a red earthenware vessel, containing a considerable number of old coins. Acting on the maxim that "the thing that's found is free", they broke the pint pig, and divided the contents.
Some days after, however, the authorities got note of it, and the Fiscal for the county succeeded in recovering 68 pieces, whereof the following is a list, made up from a hurried glance at them while they were in his possession: 21 Billon placks, coined about 1584 - 5 Hardheads of very course [sic] billon, about same date 1 Twopence piece, of pure copper, coined 1601 31 Bodies (copper), coined after the accession of James to the English throne The above are all Scotch 7 English silver coins of Elizabeth, groats, half-groats, and pennies - the date of one of these pennies, 1574 - 2 English sixpences, of James I, date 1605 and 1607, 1 English half-groat same reign. Three of the billon placks have the Mint name in full, "Oppidum Edinburgi", and are of the highest degree of rarity. For the rest the discovery does not seem to be of great importance, numismatically or otherwise. Most of the coins are so defaced as to render it impossible to decipher the mint marks. Could we conclude that all the coins have been recovered, we may infer that they constitute the hoard of a person in the lower ranks - that pure silver coin was very scarce among that class - and that silver coin, then current in Aberdeen, consisted mostly of pieces of the English coinage.
Lindsay quotes a Daily Scotsman report of 1 November 1858 which in turn refers to the Aberdeen Herald and mentions '3 billon placks dated 1584'. He comments that no coins bearing that date are known (Lindsay 1859, 54). However, the exact wording of the Herald's report is '21 billon placks coined about 1584', so that the coins in question would most probably have been the 8 penny placks or groats issued in 1583-90. Unfortunately, the Herald report-writer's 'hurried glance' means that there are some inaccuracies in his list: there were no Scottish 2pences coined in 1601,1597 being the closest date; the writer loosely uses the term 'bodle' to refer to James VI's post union Scottish copper, but the coins would actually have been 2pences; the Elizabethan silver coin bearing a date could not have been a penny as that denomination was undated, but if the date 1574 is correct, the coin may have been either a 3 halfpence or 3 farthings, both of which, though rare, were struck in that year.
Baads, Peterculter; c 1852 -No details are known of the discovery of this hoard, but its contents were described as being '22 foreign coins in silver, chiefly of the 17th century, of France, Austria, Saxony, Holland, Sweden, and 3 of Monaco; one French copper double tournois, 1639; one brass jetton of uncertain locality' (Anon 1854).
Bankhead Farm, Parish of Newhills; August 1862 -'A few days ago a "pose" of ancient silver coins was discovered by Mr John Milne, Bankhead Farm, secreted underneath the paving of an old cowhouse. The coins are thirty-two in number, and chiefly of the reigns of Elizabeth and James VI, though they comprise also a Spanish dollar of 1634 and a few minor pieces, the superscriptions of which are illegible.
Brimmond Hill, Newhills; 9th August 1942 - A hoard
of 77 coins was found beneath a small boulder within 100 yards of the summit. It
was made up as follows:
As the latest dated coin was 1632, Cruickshank suggested a deposition date during the Covenanting Wars of 1639-46. His descriptions of the 1st 2 items in the list of the hoard's contents are rather confusing: the 'Queen Mary' of the first coin cannot have beenMary Queen of Scots since no silver groats were issued in her reign nor were any groats struck at all in 1553-4; the piece was almost certainly an English groat of Mary Tudor. The 2nd coin would have been a bawbee of Mary of Scotland, but of billon rather than silver.
Dunnottar Castle, Kincardineshire Found during excavations
conducted 1984 by L Alcock: (1) Edward I penny London ; (2) James IV
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