The Ryther Hoard and the Lambert Simnel Rebellion
I associate coin hoards with the Romans or Saxons, so I was slightly surprised to come across two from the period of the Wars of the Roses. I’ve put them on the site separately because they may prove useful for A level teachers on either the events of 1464 or 1487. This discussion concerns the Ryther Hoard which is dated to around 1487, the year of the Simnel rebellion against Henry VII.
The Hoard could be used as an intriguing starter, introduced towards the end of a lesson with students being asked to come up with questions on the hoard on the basis the images on the linked PowerPoint [HERE …] Asking questions is an underestimated skill that benefits from much practice.
Then give students the date and place of the hoard and ask them to find out what was happening at that time and suggest why the hoard might have been buried. This would add both interest and focus to the task of reading about the events of 1487.
Further discussion would then underline the limits of our knowledge and provide an opportunity to develop students use of hypothetical language. While the Hoard can be dated reasonably accurately we do not know why it was buried or by whom. A couple of websites which describe the Hoard assume a link to the Simnel rebellion – an assumption that led me to do some more reading on events in the vicinity of Ryther in 1487, check maps for distances etc as explained below.
A WORD version of this activity and accompanying resources can be downloaded:
The Ryther Hoard c1487
The hoard, found by a metal detectorist at Ryther in Yorkshire in 1992, contains over 800 silver coins with a face value of £6 12s and 10d (brief break for nostalgia as I grew up with shillings and pence – arithmetic at primary school was a joy!). The National Archive’s Currency Converter suggests that today this could be equated to around £3,300 (though that converter only converts to 2005 values and, more importantly, it is only a very general value as some items in the past cost proportionately far more than today, some proportionately far less)
The latest coins in the hoard are amongst the earliest minted in the reign of Henry VII and they date the hoard to about 1487. The hoard also contains a small number of coins minted during Richard III’s reign but the majority are from the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV while some date from the 14th century. Many of the coins were struck in York which was an important mint.
[If it seems surprising that coins stayed in circulation for so long it may be worth adding that I can remember plenty of pennies from Queen Victoria’s reign still in use in the 1960s – shiny and smooth but legal tender and very useable for games of shove-ha’penny football on classroom tables.]
The hoard was found on land owned by the Ryther family. Sir Robert Ryther was sheriff of Yorkshire in both 1477 and 1486 and constable of York castle from 1478, his appointment being renewed in 1488, suggesting that he had Henry VII’s confidence.
The suggested context for the burial of the hoard is the rebellion in 1487 associated with Lambert Simnel. The rebel army crossed from Ireland, landed in the north-west on 4th June and then marched east into Yorkshire. The speed of the rebels’ progress may well have been unnerving for people in Yorkshire as the rebels were near the city of York only 5 days after landing on the north-west coast. The citizens expected the rebels to take control of York but instead the rebels continued their surge south, maintaining the momentum of their progress. The rebels’ confidence may well have been increased by victories over two small forces which tried to stop them. On 10th June Lord Clifford lost a skirmish with the rebels near Tadcaster and then, at some stage in the next two days, the rebels also defeated a scouting party from the King’s army near Doncaster.
If the hoard is linked to this rebellion then these rebel successes may explain the hoard being buried. The location of Ryther is important here as it is south-west of York, lying between the city and the rebels’ route south down the Great North Road. Ryther is only ten miles from that route and just seven miles south east of Tadcaster, the site of one of the rebels’ victorious skirmishes. So it’s likely that people in Ryther would have been very aware of the rebel army and of its progress. Given that the news of the rebel victories led to the city of York declaring for King Edward VI (Lambert Simnel) it wouldn’t be surprising if people in Ryther felt that hiding their wealth would be a good move in case the rebel army came their way.
Regardless of whether the hoard is linked to this rebellion, these events and the city of York’s reaction do show how great a threat this invasion appeared to be in early June 1487, a useful reminder that Henry’s eventual victory was not as inevitable as may appear.
In the end, of course, the rebels were beaten at the battle of Stoke, near Newark, but that then raises a different question – if these events did lead to the hoard being buried by someone living in Ryther why was it not dug up when the crisis was over? The battle of Stoke took place less than a week after the rebel army passed near Ryther, not long enough for the burial place to be forgotten.
This latter point may suggest that it’s too easy to assume a link between a coin hoard and a major event. The assumption is that A happened at the same time as B, therefore A and B must be linked. But need they be? Are there other possibilities? One could simply be theft – we have no evidence that these coins were stolen but it seems possible that they were hidden by the thief who, for whatever reason, was never able to collect them, though this is, perhaps, even more speculative than the rebellion link.
Conclusion - we have no definitive answers to our questions apart from one thing - whoever buried these coins did not waste a good jug when doing so. For more on the jug the coins were buried in, read on – this is my summary of the information on the Yorkshire Museum Trust entry about the jug.
This small jug is an example of Humber ware, made in a number of places in the Humber region, possibly including York. Such small unglazed jugs were crudely made, untrimmed and unfinished. Because of their size they are usually called 'drinking jugs' but scientific analysis and manuscript illustrations show they were also commonly used as male urinals (though hopefully not for both purposes). The frequency with which these jugs are found suggests they were cheap and probably disposable. Their popularity declined when superior German stonewares were imported from the late 1400s and there is little evidence of the manufacture of these small jugs after 1500.
Yorkshire Museums Trust – see information on the jug plus picture of hoard HERE …
Visual summary of Yorkshire coin hoards – three good images (keep scrolling to right on the site to find this entry) HERE …
Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.