'It was crazy. They were everywhere': Metal detector couple tell of finding Norman Conquest coin cache worth millions

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

A couple of metal detectorists who have spent 15 years on the hunt for a hoard to make their fortune have spoken of the moment they uncovered a huge trove thought to be worth millions.

Lisa Grace and Adam Staples said they were stunned to dig up the coins which date back to the Battle of Hastings.

Depicting both the defeated King Harold II and the triumphant conqueror William I, they were found in a field in the Chew Valley, Somerset.

"It was crazy, absolute mayhem," Mr Staples told ITV News.

"I was on the phone to archaeologists, the landowner turned up, he brought some buckets for the coins.

"There was more coins coming up; we'd have a rest, there was still more coins. We stopped counting them, it was taking too long. They were just everywhere."

The couple had gone to secret location to help train friends how to use a new detector.

He said of their big find: "Our friend found the first coin. I was stood right next to him.

"It went from one coin, three coins, 30 coins and gradually progressed. It took about four, five hours to dig it up."

By the time they had finished, 2,528 coins, each worth about £5,000, had been recovered.

Ms Grace said she was desperate to tell someone about the find but feared it would attract illegal detectorists to the site who would dig up coins to sell on the black market.

So, having made the discovery in January, they kept quiet until today.

"We had a few million pounds-worth of coins in the back of the car, it's not the kind of thing you want to be broadcasting!" said Mr Staples.

The faces of kings William and Harold stamped into the coins. Credit: British Museum/PA

"It's what we've been dreaming of for 15 years, to find something of national significance," said Mr Staples.

"Not only financially valuable but historically valuable."

They handed the silver hoard over the British Museum for evaluation.

Some of the coins showed signs of tax evasion techniques. Credit: PA

Experts there say the coins show evidence of early tax evasion in Britain.

Some show signs of being illicitly tampered with, sporting mixed designs on either side.

Experts say this is evidence that the person striking the coins was using an older design – from an older coining tool – and essentially avoiding paying a fee to obtain the up-to-date design.

Some coins in the Norman treasure hoard show William on one side, and Harold on the other, despite the Anglo-Saxon monarch having been overthrown.

Lisa Grace and Adam Staples. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

While it has not yet been declared treasure or officially valued, Mr Staples said it could be worth more than £5 million – a sum which would be shared with the rest of the group and the landowner.

Asked how life will change if their find is declared treasure, Mr Staples, who works providing auction consultations, said: “It will totally change it. We will be able to buy our own property, it’s freedom.”

The hoard of coins could be worth more than £5m. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

The hoard is the largest Norman treasure find since 1833, and features examples of how French-speaking officials had struggled to get a grip on Old English, which is imperfectly stamped onto some of the silver coins.

Gareth Williams, of the British Museum, said: “This is an extremely significant find for our understanding of the impact of the Norman Conquest of 1066.

“The coins help us understand how changes under Norman rule impacted on society as a whole.”

A coroner will decided whether the hoard is officially treasure and where it should be held.