The York Coin Hoards c.1066-1069:
Raw material for intriguing lesson introductions
Ambling through the glorious Yorkshire Museum earlier this year I noticed a case containing a scattering of coins spilling out of a broken pot. As I was just completing a GCSE book on the Norman Conquest I was intrigued to discover that the coins date from the late 1060s.
Further enquiries to the Museum led to an email from the Curator of Numismatics, Andrew Woods, who provided details of three coin hoards found in York from this period:
• Bishophill-I Hoard: Deposited c.1066. 300+ silver pennies of Edward the Confessor and the ceramic crucible they were found in.
• Bishophill-II Hoard: 47 silver pennies of William the Conqueror, hidden in 1069.
• Jubbergate Hoard:70 silver Coins of William the Conqueror, hidden in 1069.
Dr Woods went onto say:
‘I would associate the latter two with the harrying of the north and the former with the activities of 1066. In each case, the actual numbers known are only those that survive rather than the total number found as each hoard was found in the 1800s when record-keeping was less precise.’
A WORD version of this activity and accompanying resources can be downloaded:
Possible classroom uses from KS2 to A level
The linked PowerPoint provides images of coins from these hoards.
It begins with a series of cut-out pictures of the Bishophill-I hoard to add a sense of puzzle:
What is this in the picture?
The coin hoards may best be used as lesson openers, using a picture or pictures to get students thinking. I can’t lay down an exact sequence of questions as you know your students and I don’t but the following ideas for questions may help:
What can you see in the picture/s? What do you think this might be [with cut-out pictures]?
Why might coins be buried in pots in the ground?
What kind of people might have buried them?
Then provide information about events around York 1066-1070 (see below) and ask students to work out which events each coin hoard might be linked to and why they might have been buried then.
What do these hoards suggest about people’s reactions to events and their feelings at the time?
After that, go into the details of events, hopefully with students curious to know more about the contexts for these discoveries. You might also ask students what other kinds of evidence might provide more evidence of the reasons for the burial of these coins.
KS2 and KS3
If using these finds with students at KS2 and KS3 they could be introduced using the techniques described in this activity, Digging Up a Mystery
Additional suggestions from Ruth Lingard who teaches in York …
I'd ask students to dig deeper in pairs by encouraging them to ask more questions:
Why would someone bury their valuables?
What does this action tell us about the some of the people living in York during these years?
What were they scared of? Why might they not return? What might this reveal about the extent of William's conquest of the North?
What might it reveal about the changing relationship between William and the people of York?
Of course I wouldn't be able to give them any answers apart from the key dates - but it is a brilliant way of showing how uncertain historians’ understanding of the individual circumstances behind the artefacts is.
It would also be interesting to compare to the rather bald commentary of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and ask students to consider the worth of each type of source for answering different questions.
I'd also encourage my students to come up with a tentative hypothesis e.g. "The coin hoards showed that there was deep uncertainty in York about the future and this may have increased during the first few years of the Conquest " then I would keep getting them to return back to that hypothesis and re-draft if necessary.
It would be nice to finish the topic with the coin hoards again - and see if the students thinking has become more sophisticated in using these hoards as evidence.’
If you use this material do get in touch and pass on ideas for effective use so I can add them to the site.
Major events in Yorkshire 1066-1070
1066 September - Battles of Fulford and Stamford Bridge
1068 Rebellion in the north by earls Edwin and Morcar ended by William’s campaign in the north. First castle built in York
1069 Two major rebellions in the north; a Danish fleet raided the east coast
William led two campaigns to the north, during which York was ravaged by William’s army and another castle was built in the city
1069-70 The Harrying of the North – widespread destruction by William’s army
With thanks to Andrew Woods of the York Museum Trust.
The Yorkshire Museum has excellent, visually appealing, displays and can be found in the grounds of St. Mary’s Abbey in the centre of York. St Mary’s was the richest abbey in the north in the later middle ages.
For more information
See David M Palliser, Medieval York 600-1540 (OUP, 2014)
On page 91 Professor Palliser refers to four coin hoards having been buried in York in this period, comprising a total of over 1000 coins, the result of York’s wealthier citizens fleeing the city to avoid robbery or death.
You will find images for classroom use on the linked PowerPoint but if you want to explore further, Andrew Woods has curated a digital exhibition of a number of Yorkshire hoards c3000BC – AD 1643 HERE …
In addition to other images which can be googled there are illustrations of some of the coins from the York coin hoards at www.yorkmuseumstrust.org.uk/collections
Individual URLs as follows: