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Today, the area around Sandford Springs, near Kingsclere, is occupied by a golf course and attendant hotel. In prehistoric and Roman times it seems likely that the springs were the focus for religious and ritual activity, probably involving a temple or shrine.
When the A339 Kingsclere bypass was constructed, in the early 1980s, a number of Bronze Age artefacts were recovered, including a tanged chisel and socketed axe, presumably from a dispersed hoard. Somewhat previously, the enlarging of the eponymous pond had thrown up a large number of Iron Age and Roman coins and other offerings, including a fine, enamelled, military style Roman belt buckle.
When work began on landscaping the golf course in the mid 1980s, archaeological monitoring took place, although features were few, being limited to a shallow gully and patches of burning. The practice of the then landowner, to always have his metal detector at the ready, resulted in a spectacular find, however, when he discovered the ‘Kingsclere crock’.
As one of the grading machines was smoothing the contours, a large flint nodule detached itself from the soil and rolled obligingly down to his feet. A pass over it with the detector resulted in a loud signal and removal of a clay ‘plug’ revealed seven Iron Age gold staters, neatly filling a natural cylindrical hole. The coins were subject to a Coroner’s Inquest (the flint wasn’t – although it would be today) and declared to be Treasure Trove. Hampshire County Council was happily in a position to acquire them, and the find is on display at the Willis Museum, Basingstoke.
The ‘triple tailed horse’ issue dates to around 50 BC and the coins were probably struck by the Atrebates at Calleva (Silchester). The design, a stylised horse straddling a wheel, is derived from Macedonian gold coinage which showed Philip II (d. 336 BC) father of Alexander the Great, driving a two horse chariot in which he was victorious in the Olympic Games.
The discovery brings to mind a find made some 23 km to the west at Chute, Wiltshire, in 1927. A 13 year old boy, Victor Smith (living at The Forge!) was acting as a beater for a Chute shoot, when he threw one large flint against another and a shower of gold spilled out. After one or two return visits he had collected 65 coins and these were declared Treasure Trove. In 1986 an enterprising detectorist searched the same site and found a further 55 coins. These could not all have fitted inside the flint (which is in Devizes Museum) but were struck with the same range of dies (stamps) and must have been part of the original deposit.
There have been other discoveries of flint ‘crocks’, from Rochester in Kent, for example, and more recently (2004) Henley in Oxfordshire, where 32 coins very similar to the Kingsclere examples, came to light.
Series by Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, Peter Stone, with help from Stacie Elliot.