Couple unearth rare 14th century gold coins from reign of Edward III

Treasure-hunting couple unearth five rare 14th century gold coins from reign of Edward III while the husband was having chemotherapy

  • Phil and Joan Castle made the discovery while metal detecting in a field in Kent
  • The couple, who have done the activity for more than 30 years, were stunned
  • Experts say the coins are over 600 years old and would be worth £2,500 today
  • The haul could fetch up to £15,000 when it goes to auction in London next week 

A treasure-hunting couple have unearthed five rare gold coins from the reign of Edward III while the husband was having chemotherapy.

Phil, 71, and Joan Castle, 70, made the remarkable discovery while metal detecting in a ploughed field near their home in New Romney, Kent.

The coins, which could fetch up to £15,000 at auction, are still in immaculate condition, and are believed to be from the 14th century.

Experts say it is a particularly special find as it only has gold coins, with no silver ones nearby. 

It was the find of a lifetime for the couple, who have been metal detecting together for more than 30 years.  

Phil (left) and Joan Castle (right) have been metal detecting together for more than 30 years. They found the remarkable haul when searching in a ploughed field in New Romney, Kent

The coins and the brass purse bar (pictured) which were found by Mr and Mrs Castle will go to auction next week

The coins date back to the reign of King Edward III (pictured), who ruled England for 50 years from 1327 to 1377

The discovery was made in October 2018, when Mrs Castle found a broken coin on the surface of the ground. 

Another signal beside it in the soil revealed a Medieval brass purse bar at eight inches down.

When Mr Castle came over to help he immediately found a gold coin, and over the next two hours the couple found four more gold coins in an area of five metres.  

The coins from the reign of King Edward III are 1.3in (3.4cm) in diameter and show the Plantagenet monarch in a ship holding a sword and shield on one side and the royal cross on the other.

They would be the equivalent of a £2,500 coin if minted today.

The brass purse (pictured) was found by Mrs Castle eight inches below the surface of the ploughed field

Over the course of the next two hours the couple found five gold coins (pictured) in almost perfect condition

Mr Castle, who used to work at Woolwich Arsenal, was introduced to metal detecting by Joan who searched for fossils and loved mudlarking on the River Thames.

He said: ‘We had no idea what the coins were when we found them.

‘At the time, I was having chemo for Leukaemia so detecting was a great relief.’  

The hoard has been disclaimed under the Treasure Act and the couple are hoping they can have a new kitchen with their share of the proceeds which will be split with the land owner.

The purse and its coins will be offered for sale by Noomans – a coin, medal, banknote and jewellery auctioneers – on May 24 in Mayfair, London.

Nigel Mills at Noonans explained: ‘The coins were recorded by Jo Ahmet, the finds liaison officer for Kent as Gold nobles of Edward III issued between 1351-61.

‘This was the first significant issue of gold coins that was successful after the previous attempts had failed and the coins were subsequently recalled and melted down.

Mrs Castle found this broken coin on the surface, a discovery which prompted her and her husband to start searching for more

‘At the time, these were the highest denomination coins in circulation with a face value of six shillings and eight pence, which is about £2,500 per coin in today’s money.

‘They portray the King in a ship holding a sword and shield on the obverse with a royal cross on the reverse.’

‘Purse hoards are not common and when they do turn up but they usually contain just silver coins so this one is special.

‘Apart from the broken coin which is a plated contemporary forgery, all five gold coins are in virtually mint state and must have been lost.’

Edward III – how a boy king became one of the great conquerors 

Over the course of 50 years as King of England, Edward III forged a reputation as a skillful politician and leader of men.

He rose to the throne in 1327 at the age of 14 when his father, Edward II, was deposed. 

The former king was replaced by his son by the winning forces, who were backing his wife Isabella and the young Edward.

For the first four years of his reign, Isabella and a baron by the name of Roger Mortimer ruled in his stead. 

He would later have Mortimer executed as he asserted his independence, while his mother was sent into retirement.  

The early years of Edward’s reign saw rising hostility between England and France, much of which centred over the English rule of Gascony, a province in southwestern France.

He twice tried to invade France, in 1339 and 1340, but both of these ventures failed and left him bankrupt.

The same year he declared himself to be King of France, a title he and his successors became determined to put into practice, leading to the century of conflict known as the Hundred Years’ War.

While he succeeded in destroying the French navy in 1340, the coffers ran dry and he was forced to sign a peace treaty and return to England, although this was broken two years later. 

In 1346 he landed in Normandy with his son, Prince Edward, known as the Black Prince.

Again, despite successes such as taking Calais, plundering Paris and the scattering the French army, a lack of funds forced him to sign another peace treaty. 

His campaigns in France would continue over the course of the next decade, and despite coming close, he never succeeded in his goal of being crowned King of France. 

In 1360 he signed the Treaty of Calais, which renounced his claim over the French throne in return for ownership of Aquitaine, an area of southwestern France.  

Despite this treaty, his later years were not quiet and bountiful. 

Waves of the Black Death led to problems at home and when hostilities with France resumed he left most of the fighting to his sons.

When he died in 1377 he was succeeded by his grandson Richard II.

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