News & Media Centre

Photo Call: Viewing of recovered medieval silver coins and other looted antiquities

Photo Call Notice/Press Release

20th May 2013

The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology

Kildare Street, Dublin 2

What? Viewing of recovered medieval silver coins and other looted antiquities.

When? Tuesday, 21st May 2013

Where? National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, Kildare Street, D.2

Time? 11.30a.m.

Background Information:

The National Museum of Ireland is pleased to announce a major success in its effort to protect the national heritage of portable antiquities from the activities of looters. On 15th May 2013 the Art and Antiques Unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, An Garda Síochána, handed a collection of 899 metal-detected archaeological objects to the National Museum of Ireland. Some of the objects were recovered in the UK by officers of the Norfolk Constabulary with the remaining objects being recovered in Ireland by the Art and Antiques Unit. The collection was amassed by an individual, now deceased, who operated in the Co. Tipperary area with assistance from another person who did not reside within the jurisdiction. The existence of the antiquities came to light following a tip-off from the British Museum to the National Museum of Ireland that an important hoard of medieval silver coins from Ireland had been exported illegally to Britain. The National Museum contacted Mark Harrison, Heritage Crime Advisor to English Heritage who in turn liaised with the Norfolk Constabulary. The National Museum also reported the matter to the Art and Antiques Unit of An Garda Síochána who also liaised with the British police.

Seamus Lynam, Acting Director of the National Museum said: “The recovery underlines the continuing threat posed to the portable archaeological heritage of Ireland by metal detectorists. Many items similar to those recovered have been offered for sale in recent times over the internet and are the subject of on-going investigations. The recovery shows the determination of the National Museum, the Gardaí and other State bodies to protect the nation’s heritage and demonstrates the ability to recover important heritage objects even when they have been illegally removed from the jurisdiction.”

The objects recovered by the Norfolk Constabulary were a hoard of 28 medieval hammered silver coins covering the reigns of Edward I- III (1272-1377). Also recovered were three ‘gun money’ coins of James II, consisting of a half-crown and two shilling coins. ‘Gun money’ was emergency war money coined by James II during the war of 1689-91. The Norfolk police also recovered a flat copper axe dating to the Early Bronze Age between 2,500 – 2,000 BC.

A further 29 medieval silver coins were recovered by An Garda Síochána. Many of them remain to be identified but included are coins of King John (1199–1216), Henry III (1216–1272), Edward I (1272–1307), Edward III (1327–1377), Henry VIII (1509–1547), Queen Mary (1553–1554), Phillip and Mary (1554–1558) and Elizabeth I (1558–1603). Some medieval copper coins were also recovered as were milled silver coins of William III and George IV. There was a further 14 gun-money coins of James II and copper coins of William and Mary, William III and of George I, II, III & IV. Eighteenth century tokens were also among the finds.

A bronze looped-socketed spearhead in the collection dates to the Bronze Age between 1,400 – 900 BC. Another important early find is a decorative mount with settings of yellow enamel which is of Early Medieval date and may represent a belt fitting or perhaps a mount from an item of ecclesiastical metalwork.

There are 325 metal buttons dating from the 17th century to the 19th century including examples by important Dublin buttons makers such as Jones, Clancy and Murphy. Many are military buttons relating to the activities of the British Army in Ireland. Coincidentally, having regard for the important role of the Norfolk Constabulary in the recovery of some of the finds, one of the buttons is from the tunic of a soldier in the 54th West Norfolk Regiment of Foot dating to after 1855. Some of the military buttons have particularly local interest such as a silvered button of the Lower Ormond Cavalry, a regiment commissioned in 1796 under the command of Captain Otway Toler. There is also a uniform button inscribed ‘County Tipperary Gaol’. There were county gaols in both Nenagh and Clonmel and research is continuing to determine which one the uniform button is connected to. Royal Irish Constabulary buttons are also present as well as an R.I.C. police whistle. Other military regalia include an Irish Volunteers badge and a badge of the Royal Scots Regiment which was raised in 1633 making it the oldest Regiment in the British Army. There is also a collection of bullets and musket balls.

Other items of local interest include saddle mounts identifying local makers such as Gleeson Brothers, Nenagh; Clune, Nenagh and P. Williams, Cloughjordan. There is also a bronze fitting bearing the name R. Perry & Son, Rathdowney.

A collection of weights includes a small example that appears to be of Viking origin. Medieval finds include a number of harness mounts, decorative studs, the foot of a cauldron, thimbles, sword chape and belt fittings. The presence of medieval objects suggest that sites such as castles and medieval churches may have been targeted while the presence of Georgian and Victorian metal furniture mounts, spoons, coins and thimbles suggests the targeting of local estate houses.

A great deal of work will need to be undertaken to document, research and record the objects and the full heritage potential of the collection may never be realised due to the absence of any find location records on the part of the finders. The recovery underlines the continuing threat posed to the portable archaeological heritage of Ireland by metal detectorists. Many items similar to those recovered have been offered for sale in recent times over the internet and are the subject of on-going investigations. The recovery shows the determination of the State bodies to protect the nation’s heritage and demonstrates the ability to recover important heritage objects even when the have been illegally removed from the jurisdiction.

The National Museum wishes to extend thanks to the following persons for their role in the recovery of these important heritage objects:

Detective Garda Declan O’Brien, Art and Antiques Unit, National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Dr. Roger Bland, Keeper of Prehistory and Europe / Keeper of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, The British Museum.

Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor for English Heritage

Detective Inspector Andy Ninham, Norwich CID, Norfolk Constabulary.

Meet with and Photo opportunities of the recovered coins and antiquities.

Mr. Seamus Lynam, Acting Director, National Museum of Ireland.

Mr. Raghnall Ó Floinn, Head of Collections, National Museum of Ireland

Mr. Ned Kelly, Keeper, Irish Antiquities, National Museum of Ireland.

Superintendent Dave Taylor, Garda Press Office.

Garda Declan O’Brien of the Art and Antiques Unit, NBCI

Mr. Terry Allen, Director, National Monuments Service, Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Notes to the Editor:

Photocall will take place within the Director’s office, National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Maureen Gaule, Marketing Executive, Marketing Department, National Museum of Ireland

T: 01 648 6429 | M: 087 2075133| E: mgaule@museum.ie

Ann Daly, Head of Marketing, Marketing Department, Marketing Department, National Museum of Ireland

T: 01 648 6457| M: 087 236 8067| E: adaly@museum.ie

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