The Chiddingstone Hoard
10 Gold Iron Age Gallo-Belgic staters c. 60-50 BC
In 2016 a metal detectorist who has worked the area for 30 years discovered a hoard of 10 gold coins in the parish of Chiddingstone. As they were subject to the Treasure Act 1996 they were sent to the British Museum for assessment and verified as Iron Age Gallo-Belgic E staters c.60-50 BC
As the accredited local history museum, the Eden Valley Museum was approached to see whether we would be willing to help to keep them in the Valley where they had been hidden for over 2,000 years. They have added a fascinating chapter in our knowledge of the history of the Eden Valley showing a direct link between the people of the Eden Valley and the momentous events in European history in the Iron Age
Where did they come from?
The coins were minted in Gaul (Northern France and Belgium) by the Ambiani tribe. In 58 BC Gaul was under threat of invasion by Julius Caesar and the Roman army. The local tribes formed an alliance to fight the Roman invasion. They minted a large number of these coins to use as payment for mercenaries and in forging allegiances. Such coins have been found throughout the South East of England but usually as individual finds. It is extremely rare to find a hoard.
What are they doing here?
British warriors are known to have fought alongside the Gauls in their war against Roman occupation. Kent had a long history of close alliance with the Gauls, who were said to have traded, settled and intermarried in Kent. Gaulish warriors are said to have taken refuge in Kent at the end of the war. It is possible that local warriors were returning from the war with these coins as payment. These coins could also have been marriage gifts or diplomatic offerings to the local tribal leaders. It is unlikely that such coins were used in trade.
Why were they buried?
There is a long tradition dating from the Bronze Age and continuing well into the Roman period of precious metal objects placed in the ground as a form of votive offering to the gods. These coins could well have been part of that tradition.
Alternatively, as Caesar landed in North East Kent in 55 and 54 BC they may have been buried to keep them safe, with the intention of retrieving them later.
How they were made
The metal was smelted and poured into moulds to give these coins a consistent size. A consistent colour was also important so they were alloyed with silver and copper.
Each would have been struck by hand consequently they vary slightly giving prominence to different parts of the design.
Images © British Museum
The Iron Age in the Eden Valley
There are two Iron Age hill forts close to the Eden Valley. One at Dry Hill, Cowden, to the south of the Valley, and the other at Squerryes, Westerham, to the north, both dated to c. 350 BC. These hill forts were constructed at the time when iron was first being exploited in the Weald but are not thought to be settlement sites. There is also a known settlement site to the north of Chiddingstone.
The Design of the Coins
The design of the coins can be traced back to the great conqueror Philip of Macedon, (359-36 BC), the father of Alexander the Great. He manufactured coins with the head of Apollo on one side and a horse drawn chariot on the other which were given as gifts to mercenaries who fought in his wars. Gaulish warriors are known to have fought in his army and returned to Gaul bringing the coins with them. These tribes then took the idea and produced their own coins with a similar design.
Over time the head of the ruler replaced the god and the chariot disappeared, but the horse – so important in their culture – became the traditional design for coins minted by the Gaulish tribes. When the British in their turn started minting coins they too used the same format, though over time their designs became increasingly abstract.
The coins are blank on the obverse side, where usually the head of a local ruler might appear. They are classed as ‘uniface’. It is thought that the reason for this is that the coins were minted for the alliance of Gallic Tribes who were joining together to fight Caesar. There would have been a number of local rulers involved but as this was a joint enterprise no one ruler should appear on the coins.
The Coins Today
After a successful fundraising campaign in 2018 Eden Valley Museum purchased the coins with help from the contributors below, allowing what has for so long been buried here to remain in the Eden Valley.
They are now on permanent display in the Museum, free for all to come and see.