On 29 March, 1968, a bulldozer levelling a playing field near College Copse, Hamble, unearthed a hoard of Roman coins and the remains of the pot in which they had been buried. Some confusion followed regarding ownership but it was eventually decided that they belonged to the landowners, Hamble-le-Rice Parish Council, who had commissioned the landscaping works.
The coins went first to the Hampshire Museums Service and then to the British Museum, to be identified. A list of the hoard contents was published and the British Museum also purchased about 200 coins for their own collections. Hamble Parish Council retained 90 coins for display purposes. The remaining 2,190 were deposited with the Hampshire Museums Service, initially as a loan, but in 1997 the loan was changed to a gift and the coins accessioned as N1997.47.
In more recent years a selection of thirty representative coins has been remounted in a frame for display in Hamble.
A total of 2,494 coins have been accounted for, but it is possible that the hoard was originally larger. The majority (2,192) belong to the period 330 to 335. Only fourteen coins are older than this but 267 are younger, with the latest dating to 348-350. A burial date of around 350 therefore seems likely. A small number of coins (21) were not from official mints, but were ‘barbarous copies’ – contemporary forgeries! Such practices were rife in Roman times.
Large hoards of this date are quite common in Britain and Gaul and may relate to reforms in the coinage which took place in 348. Equally, the idea that they were buried as an offering to the gods should not be discounted.
The earliest coin in the hoard was issued by Claudius II (268-270). All the other coins belong to the 4th century and most were issued by Constantine I (‘the Great’) and his dynastic companions, including two imperial women, Helena and Theodora. Other well-represented coins include those struck to mark the dedication of Constantinople (Istanbul) as new capital of the Eastern Empire and to placate Rome, the old capital – both showing helmeted busts – personifications of the two cities.
By the 4th century, coins were being made at many imperial mints around the Empire and these are identified by mint marks. Most of the Hamble coins were manufactured close to Britain (London ceased production in 326) at Trier, Arles and Lyon, but there are also examples from numerous other sites including Nicomedia, Cyzicus and Antioch, showing just how far money travelled.
Recent Coin Hoards from Roman Britain Vol 1, British Museum, 1979; The Hamble and Chorleywood Hoards and the Gallic Coinage of AD 330-335
N1997.47 Archive held by Hampshire Cultural Trust
Series by Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone.