Rare find dates to earliest days of Winchelsea

AN incredible find uncovered at a Winchelsea allotment has helped shed light on the history of the medieval town.

Winchelsea is a unique survivor of one of Edward I’s planned towns. While it has retained much of it’s medieval history, one thing that seemed to be missing was evidence of the coins that would have frequently changed hands in the markets of the busy port town.

Only three medieval coins have ever been found in the town and none were unusual - until now that is.

Brian Thomas, from Icklesham, was digging in his National Trust owned allotment when he discovered a silver gros tournois coin dating from the reign of the French king Louis IX and struck before 1270. Moreover, it was in mint condition due to being completely enclosed in mud two spades depth down in the ground. Intriguingly, not only is the date of the coin close to date of the foundation of Winchelsea, but it was found close to the scene of a notorious massacre during a French raid in 1360.

This type of coin, also known as a livre tournois, was the main unit of account in France between 1203 and the French Revolution. Like our pre-decimal pounds, shillings and pence, the livre tournois was sub-divided into 20 sou and 240 denier.

Mr Thomas wanted to investigate what it was he had found and in the process contacted the local Finds Liaison Officer for identification. The Winchelsea Archaeological Society (WAS) became aware of the existence of the coin through the Finds Liaison Officer and as a result Mr Thomas was able to present the coin to National Trust’s Property Manager for Winchelsea, George Bailey.

Mr Bailey said: “I have checked with our specialists who have advised me that it is a rare find to discover a silver coin of this age in this condition. It must have been lost in the mud at the time it was dropped and this has sealed the oxygen out and preserved it as new.

“I am really pleased to have had the opportunity to accept this important object for the National Trust collection and am grateful for the Winchelsea Archaeological Society for making me aware of its existence. It is really exciting that people will be able to view the coin this year for the first time in over 700 years.”

To celebrate the discovery an exhibition about the coin is being arranged by WAS in partnership with the Trust and Winchelsea Museum.

The exhibition, which will display the coin and set out the background to both the coin and medieval Winchelsea, takes place at the museum on Saturday March 3 between 11am and 1pm.