A Coenwulf Penny by Wihtred from Bidford-on

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A Coenwulf Penny by Wihtred from Bidford-on
A COENWULF
PENNY
BY WIHTRED
FROM
Wilfred
Discovery
BIDFORD-ON-AVON,
WARWICKSHIRE
A.Seaby
and Site
It is not very often that a Mercian p e n n y , which seems to be no more than
a c h a n c e loss, turns up in this country, while hoards containing coins of
Coenwulf recorded d u r i n g the past two or more centuries can be counted on
the fingers of both h a n d s . 1
T h u s it is gratifying to report the discovery
of such a piece d u r i n g
investigations
along the route for the new inner
relief road at Bidford.
Excavations were just concluding in 1978 by archaeologists working for the Warwickshire Museum a n d the Department of the
Environment u n d e r the direction of Miss Susan Hirst,
w h e n the coin w a s
found unstratified.
It lay at the top of B5 Roman q u a r r y a n d at the base
of the plough soil in an area between the large p a g a n Saxon cemetery 2 a n d
the fringes of a later Saxon settlement s i t e 3 ( N G R : S P 0 9 9 1 5 1 9 7 ) .
There w a s no indication of a deposit at the spot where the coin lay a n d
indeed S a x o n hoards from a n y w h e r e within the Middle A n g l i a n a n d Hwiccan
regions are at present u n k n o w n , partly due no doubt to the fact that d u r i n g
the ninth century D a n i s h raids did not penetrate into the region of the western
midlands. "
However,
even single finds of coins are scarce in this
general a r e a , although discoveries of sceattas h a v e occasionally occurred. 5
. A n Offa p e n n y by D e i m u n d , now in the Leicester M u s e u m , w a s found at
Wellingborough,
Northamptonshire,
before 1875.
This with a tribrach p e n n y
of Coenwulf by the moneyer Diola, housed in the Museum a n d Art Gallery at
Shrewsbury,
probably a Shropshire find but of u n k n o w n p r o v e n a n c e , a n d a
Cuthred p e n n y of E a b a unearthed with a decorated pin of iron near Brixworth, Northamptonshire,
about 1877, now in the Northampton M u s e u m , seem
to be the only examples of this denomination, predating Burgred a n d Alfred
w h i c h are recorded as being permanently housed in local m u s e u m s . 6
To be
a d d e d to these are two of C o e n w u l f ' s tribrach coins by I b b a , one discovered
at Breedon-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire, the other somewhere in Shropshire 7 as
finds also from the central a n d -western m i d l a n d s .
If, however, one extends
the
range
eastwards
there
are coins of Offa
recovered from Castor
and
Newton Bromswold,
and
a p e n n y of Aethelheard, archbishop of C a n t e r b u r y
(798-805), found at Brixworth, all in Northamptonshire. 8
Others include two
of O f f a , from Stilton, Huntingdonshire, a n d Mentmore, B u c k i n g h a m s h i r e , 9 a n d
one of Ceolwulf I by Aelhun at Toddington in B e d f o r d s h i r e . 1 0
Southwards,
Oxford
city
has
produced
a penny of" Archbishop Jaenberht
(pre-792), 1 1 a
g a r d e n n e a r Deddington Castle, Oxfordshire, one of Offa by E a d h u n , 1 2 while
at E y n s h a m A b b e y , only a few miles north-west of O x f o r d , a p e n n y of Queen
Cynethryth
by Eoba as well as an anonymous coin in the Kentish royal
series (c.821-23) were recovered in 1834 a n d 1854 respectively. 1 3 But the site
nearest to Bidford, where a coin of Ecgbeorht of Wessex by the moneyer Tidbearht w a s found in 1957, is Lower Slaughter, some twenty-five miles a w a y
30
A COENWULF PENNY BY WIHTRED
in Gloucestershire. 1 "
Quite recently a n Offa portrait p e n n y b y A l h m u n d h a s
turned up at T r u s l e y , D e r b y s h i r e , b e i n g , it is b e l i e v e d , the first recorded
early Mercian piece for that c o u n t y . 1 5
It is no part of this note to discuss or indeed anticipate f i n d i n g s from
trial excavations which h a v e taken place at Bidford-on-Avon d u r i n g four or
five seasons since 1971, for archaeological investigation is still in progress.
But in general terms it is p e r h a p s pertinent to remark that a coin w h i c h
in date falls mid-way between the k n o w n Anglo-Saxon community of the sixth
century a n d the royal manor established here b y the eleventh c e n t u r y 1 6 must
h a v e a certain significance.
Evidence from pottery a n d other finds of the
Romano-British p e r i o d 1 7 attests the early occupation of this site w h i c h lies
astride the Ricknield or Buckle Street, r u n n i n g south from Alcester to join
the Fosse W a y n e a r Lower S l a u g h t e r , at the point w h e r e this Roman road
crosses the River A v o n , formerly b y ford as the name implies, but in later
medieval times b y b r i d g e . 1 8
Exploitation of salt from Droitwich a n d elsewhere in the S a l w a r p e valley
goes b a c k to the later p h a s e s of the Iron A g e , for the Belgic peoples needed
it in their capitals; a n d the industry remained a n important one not only
d u r i n g the Roman period but all through the middle a g e s , manufacture in
fact continuing until the present c e n t u r y . 1 9 So a river crossing on a wellused route for pack-horses travelling south to the Cotswolds a n d
beyond,
with trains proceeding north with wool a n d other commodities, may h a v e been
reason enough for the establishment here of some permanent trading post.
But unlike Stratford,
w h i c h w a s the alternative crossing of A v o n ,
Bidford
remained a village or small town without borough status, although obtaining
a market g r a n t in 1220. 2 0 T h u s a p e n n y of the early ninth century is not
entirely
to be
unexpected
where
traders a n d travellers were
continually
p a s s i n g t h r o u g h , even though this area of Mercia lies about 150 miles from
the mints then striking in Kent a n d East A n g l i a .
Classification
of Coin
and
Dating
A full description is g i v e n here since the coin a p p e a r s to be a new variety
b y this moneyer although closely associated with four other coins mentioned
below.
It is illustrated at the end of this article.
Obverse.
C O E N V V L F RE+.
Bust r i g h t , d i a d e m e d
inner linear circle; outer b e a d e d circle.
Reverse.
+ . : P I N . TR. E : . D.
b e a d e d circle.
Small
cross
pattee,
and
set
robed,
cutting
saltirewise,
through
within
inner
Diameter 20mm, die ratio 3 0 ° .
Decayed a r o u n d almost half the edge where
the flan is thin; broken across bust a n d recently r e p a i r e d .
Otherwise in
very fine condition.
Weight 1 . 2 2 g ( l 8 . 9 g r s ) .
Two things are noticeable in the inscription on the obverse: the absence
of the ethnic, the initial cross being synthesised with the final letter of
R E X , 2 1 a n d the retrograde N in addition to the retrograde a n d inverted F for
L.
On the reverse the moneyer's name using N for H is set out boldly using
Roman capitals with slight serifs, single or groups of pellets a r r a n g e d arbitrarily in the s p a c i n g s of the letters.
W i h t r e d ' s signature in this form is
found on four other Coenwulf coins, each h a v i n g a different device within
the inner b e a d e d circle:
inverted A between pellets (two die d u p l i c a t e s ) ;
small tribrach pattee with pellets in a n g l e s ; star, the six limbs pattee;
saltire cross pattee with pellets in a n g l e s . 2 2
The number of coins recorded for
twenty-three,
possible twenty-four, 2 3 out
this East A n g l i a n
of p r o b a b l y fewer
moneyer is now
than a thousand
A COENWULF PENNY BY WIHTRED
S a x o n pennies k n o w n to h a v e survived from the period c . 7 7 5 to 8 2 5 , " o r
approximately 2 . 5 per cent of the total.
W i h t r e d ' s c o i n a g e , assuming all
of it w a s issued b y one m a n , covers the later issues of O f f a , the few coins
put out b y E a d w a l d of East A n g l i a , the whole of C o e n w u l f ' s sovereignty over
Mercia a n d at least the first y e a r of Ceolwulf I.
This period of effective
minting lasted some thirty-five y e a r s , c.787-822, a n d suggests the moneyer
worked well into his sixties, in fact he may h a v e been older than this w h e n
he died or r e t i r e d . 2 5
As
with C a n t e r b u r y ,
Rochester
and
London,
the East
Anglian
mint,
whether sited at Thetford, Ipswich or elsewhere, seems unlikely to h a v e h a d
continuous
striking
during
Coenwulf's
reign.
In fact there seems good
reason to suppose that the b u l k of this coinage w a s issued d u r i n g the last
ten, p e r h a p s the last five years of his rule.
For e x a m p l e , Wodel, another
East A n g l i a n , used the same reverse die on coins struck for Coenwulf a n d
Ceolwulf a n d the obverse die of the latter is found to couple with another
reverse type for Ceolwulf,
so the dating of these three pieces must surely
be 821-22.
Since Wihtred also struck coins using similar reverse designs
as seen on no fewer than five of his surviving pieces with one further
closely allied reverse, we c a n be reasonably certain that a fair proportion
of his output must be of the same date. 2 6
It seems the substantive type B , h a v i n g Saxon M with contraction mark
for Mercia as central device on obverse, a n d on reverse a large voided trib r a c h moline, in issue between 798 a n d 805 at the C a n t e r b u r y a n d London
m i n t s , 2 7 w a s not produced by a n y of the East A n g l i a n moneyers;
although
Wihtred on one of his portrait issues did use a small single-armed tribrach
as central motif. 2 8 Even though this may be a faint echo of the early group
the g a p between his coinage for Offa a n d E a d w a l d a n d that for Coenwulf
would seem to be of several years duration; for to date no coins, comparable
to those of his compatriot L u l , which link the non-portrait group of the late
eighth
century
with
his portrait
coins
for C o e n w u l f 2 9 h a v e
so far
been
recovered.
NOTES
I w i s h to t h a n k those without whose help this paper could not h a v e been
written: Miss Sue Hirst a n d Miss Helen M a c l a g a n , w h o brought the coin to
my notice; Miss Marion A r c h i b a l d , Mr M a r k B l a c k b u r n , Mr Christopher Blunt
a n d Dr Michael Metcalf; also Mr D a v i d Symons a n d Mrs Jane Moore.
1.
D . M . Metcalf,
' O f f a ' s Pence Reconsidered',
Cunobelin
(1963),
42,
gives
21
recorded
single
finds of C o e n w u l f ' s coins ( a n d 9 of his
brother
C u t h r e d ) b a s e d on lists in the possession of Mr Blunt.
M . D o l l e y , SCBI
6.
The Hiberno-Norse
Coins
in the British
Museum,
pp.48-9,
hoards
Nos.
1 (T125),
2 (T-), 4 ( T 1 1 7 ) ,
5 (T366),
7 (T328),
9 (T109),
10
(T110),
11 ( T 1 2 3 ) ,
50 ( T 3 6 2 ) .
Numbers in parenthesis
are those in
J . D . A . T h o m p s o n , Inventory
of British Coin Hoards
A. D. 600-1500
(1956).
2.
J.Humphreys,
'An
Anglo-Saxon
Cemetery
at Bidford-on-Avon,
Warwicks h i r e ' , Archaeologia,
73 ( 1 9 2 3 ) , 89-116, a n d 74 ( 1 9 2 4 ) , 271-88; Transactions
of
the
Birmingham
Archaeological
Society,
49
(1923),
16-25,
frontispiece a n d p l s . I I - V .
3.
P.Rahtz,
'Gazeteer of Anglo-Saxon
Archaeology
of Anglo-Saxon
England,
domestic
(1981),
settlement
sites'
in The
p.409;
W.Ford,
'Bidford-
32
A COENWULF PENNY BY WIHTRED
on-Avon',
P/est Midlands
Archaeological
News
Sheet
(CBA Group 8 ) ,
14
(1971),
21;
L.E.Webster
and
J.Cherry,
'Medieval
Britain
in 1971'
Medieval
Archaeology,
16 ( 1 9 7 2 ) , 163; T . S l a y t e r , A History
of
Warwickshire ( 1 9 8 1 ) , p . 2 8 .
4.
Sir F r a n k Stenton, Anglo-Saxon
England,
second edition ( 1 9 5 0 ) ,
42.
The one serious inroad recorded seems to h a v e been in the
a r o u n d the Wrekin d u r i n g 855-
5.
S . E . R i g o l d a n d D . M . M e t c a l f 'A Check-list of English F i n d s of S c e a t t a s ' ,
BNJ
47
(1977),
31-52,
including
distribution maps for eight
classes.
M a n y of these coins h a v e been recovered in the central a n d south midl a n d s but there are only six or seven specimens from the region of the
western
midlands
including
those
found
at Coventry,
Worcester
and
Compton, Staffs.
See also D . M . M e t c a l f ,
'Sceattas from the territory of
the H w i c c e ' , NC
( 1 9 7 6 ) , 64-74; a n d 'Monetary Affairs in Mercia in the
time of Aethelbald' in Mercian
Studies,
edited b y A . D o r n i e r ( 1 9 7 7 ) , m a p
on p . 9 2 , covering all finds of sceattas in E n g l a n d .
6.
A . J . H . G u n s t o n e , SCBI
in Midlands
Museums,
7.
C.E.Blunt,
C.S.S.Lyon
and B . H . I .H.Stewart,
' T h e C o i n a g e of Southern
England,
796-840', BNJ
32
(1963),
51,
No.16;
R.C.Lockett
Sale
Cat.
English p t . 3 ( 1 9 5 8 ) , lot 2658.
See also Metcalf, Cunohelin
( 1 9 6 3 ) , 43-
8.
P.W.P.Carlyon-Britton
Sale
Cat.
( 1 9 6 3 ) , 5 1 ; VCH
Northamptonshire,
9.
Lockett, E n g l i s h , p t . l
No. 3 8 6 ) ; BMC 34.
10.
Lockett,
Stewart,
English, pt.l,
p.61, CI.21(a).
11.
Lockett,
English,
12.
Journal
of the British
Archaeological
Association,
22 ( 1 8 6 6 ) , 245
to Blunt 3 9 ) ; Metcalf (BNJ
40 ( 1 9 7 1 ) , 171-72) proves this coin
1.
Fitzwilliam
Museum,
N o . 3 8 9 , ex Carlyon-Britton.
13.
R.P.Mack
collection,
p. 66, A n . 7 .
M.
Blunt, BNJ 28 (1955-57), 467 a n d p i . X X V I I , 1.
Beornfreth ( C n . 2 3 ) in Stow-on-the-Wold Museum
as a possible local Cotswold f i n d .
A p e n n y of Coenwulf by
might also be mentioned
15.
Information from Miss A r c h i b a l d
this record to be included here.
who
16.
Domesday
Book:
Warwickshire
including
Birmingham,
Morris ( 1 9 7 6 ) .
I . L a n d of the King (William) 238b
Avon).
King E d w a r d held it.
17.
S.Hirst,
Sheet
pt.3
17.
Ancient British,
N o s . 8 4 , 85 a n d 95.
(1955),
lot
(1958),
SCBI
(1918),
lot 1603;
1 (1902), p.255.
lot 348
381;
NC
lot 2632
20,
Anglo-Saxon
Mack,
(19
(= SCBI
new
ser.
(= Blunt
No.575;
May
' Bidford-on-Avon,
1979',
West
( C B A Group 8 ) , 22 ( 1 9 7 9 ) , 54-55.
1982)
1.
5,
Norman
Metcalf,
168;
Blunt,
found
Blunt,
Lyon
has
by
Coins
Cunobelin
Fitzwilliam
132);
Midlands
and
pp.241country
Museum,
Lyon
and
1866.
and
kindly
(similar
is SCBI
Stewart
allowed
edited b y
(3) Bidford
Archaeological
John
(-onNews
18.
Originally
built in the early fifteenth century,
some 200 y a r d s below
the ford,
but much repaired in 1449 a n d d u r i n g succeeding
centuries
(see VCH
Warwickshire,
III (1965), p . 5 0 ) .
19-
For a brief survey of the salt industry at Droitwich, both archaeological
and historical, see West Midlands Archaeological
News Sheet
(CBA Group
B ) f 22 ( 1 9 7 9 ) , 83-91 •
Charters mentioning salt w o r k i n g s go b a c k to the
A COENWULF PENNY BY WIHTRED
mid-seventh century.
See also Metcalf,
Mercian
Studies,
p.91,
who,
h o w e v e r , notes that no sceattas h a v e so far been recorded from Droitwich itself; a n d 'Sceattas from the Territory of the Hwicce' NC
(1976),
68.
20.
VCH
Warwickshire,
III
(1965),
p.50;
Slayter,
map,
21.
The use of + for x in the royal title occurs twelve times on a k n o w n
twenty-one obverses by this moneyer but the absence of the ethnic is
only found on two other pieces.
This form of conflation a p p e a r s to be
exceptional until the time of Ceolwulf I a n d Beornwulf ( e . g . J . J . N o r t h ,
English
Hammered
Coinage,
1, p i . I V , 3 3 - E d g a r ) .
22.
Blunt, Lyon a n d Stewart,
(note 8) p . 5 9 , N o s . 1 0 3 ,
duplicate of Lockett 2655) illustrated on p i . V I .
23.
C . E . Blunt,
'The
Coinage
of O f f a ' ,
in Anglo-Saxon
Coins,
edited
by
R.H.M.Dolley
( 1 9 6 1 ) , p . 5 9 note 1 cites for this moneyer three coins of
O f f a ' s group II a n d four of O f f a ' s group I I I , while Blunt, Lyon a n d
Stewart, p p . 5 9 , 62, a n d 6 8 , list eleven coins of his for Coenwulf, two
for Ceolwulf I , a n d one for E a d w a l d of East A n g l i a .
To these can now
be a d d e d a further coin of O f f a ' s group II ( G l e n d i n i n g , 6 June 1979,
lot 361) a n d the Coenwulf coin discussed here; also, p e r h a p s , a further
coin of Coenwulf with reverse inscription WIGHER
(SCBI
2.
Glasgow,
348).
24.
B a s e d on calculated figures given in various papers by Blunt, Metcalf
a n d others, with allowance for a number more pieces recorded in recent
years.
25.
The possibility of, s a y , father a n d son, bearing the same
working consecutively
at the one mint cannot be entirely
See
also
Metcalf's
comments
on
duplication
of moneyers'
Cunobelin
( 1 9 6 3 ) , 40.
name, and
ruled out.
names
in
26.
This is admirably demonstrated by Blunt, Lyon a n d Stewart,
113, C I . 3 1 , 32 ( W o d e l ) , a n d C n . 1 0 9 , 110, C I . 3 0 ( W i h t r e d ) .
pi.VI,
27.
Blunt,
Lyon
and
Stewart,
pp.51-2.
28.
Blunt,
Lyon
and
Stewart,
pi.VI,
29.
Blunt,
Lyon
and
Stewart,
pl.V,
Cn.104.
Ea.2,
Cn.97,
Cn.98
p.54.
104,
105,
106
(=
die
Cn.

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