Archaeologists find King's hammered coin at site of Anglo-Scottish conflict which was last medieval battle on British soil

By Ben Miller | 19 June 2015

Coin minted by Hammer of the Scots could be remnant of last medieval battle fought on British soil

A photo of a hand holding an outstreched coin
© Courtesy Flodden 1513
A hammered silver halfpenny coin, minted by Edward I after he came to power in 1272, has been discovered by a pair of nine-year-olds trowelling mud near the ruins of one of the most strategically important castles which changed hands around the time of the Anglo-Scottish Battle of Flodden two and a half centuries later.

Working in cold, wet morning conditions, two boys from the Scottish Borders found the coin under the guidance of organisers behind a £1.3 million project which will create an ecomuseum near the medieval Wark Castle in Northumberland.

A photo of two large brown outdoor archaeological trenches with rocks inside them
© Courtesy Flodden 1513
“We found lots of medieval pottery, animal bones and, at the very end of the morning, the coin,” says Jane Miller, an Education Officer for the Flodden 1513 museum, whose experts have helped eager children and volunteers investigate an area briefly captured by James IV’s Scottish army in 1513.

“This exciting find was the icing on the cake.”

A photo of archaeologists working at a greenfield outdoor site within brown mud pits
© Courtesy Flodden 1513
The first king to mint halfpennies, Edward I was born in 1239 and became known as Longshanks because of his height. He was also called the Hammer of the Scots due to his involvement in the Scottish succession, when he decided the competing claims of John Balliol and Robert Bruce to the Scottish Crown.

Flodden was the last medieval battle fought on British soil, when a Scottish force of at least 30,000 men, led by King James IV, encountered a smaller English force assembled by the Earl of Surrey on behalf of King Henry VIII.

A photo of a large brown archaeological trench within grassland
© Courtesy Flodden 1513
Three hours of gruesome combat resulted in an English victory, the death of 15,000 men on the battlefield, including 10,000 Scots and their monarch. James IV the last monarch to die in battle on British soil.

Chris Burgess, the Archaeology Manager at the site of a castle repaired to full operation by the English less than five years after its Scottish takeover, said a large hearth could prove “very important” in the search for evidence.

A photo of a large brown archaeological trench with bricks and boulders surrounding it
© Courtesy Flodden 1513
“The group removed all of the clay to reveal a surface of fist-sized gravel cobbles underneath,” he says.

“This is very reminiscent of the construction of so-called central hearths I have excavated in the Western Isles of Scotland, where a base of cobbles is used to create an overlying hearth of clay on which the location of small peat fire can be moved from day to day.”

A photo of a large brown archaeological trench with a measuring stick and a work sign
© Courtesy Flodden 1513
Charcoal, mixed ceramics, bones and an early piece of clay pipe have surfaced amid a vast array of artefacts near the earthwork remains of the motte and bailey. The wall of a former chapel lies to the west of the castle.

“I was digging in an area near the chapel where they would have thrown waste which is called a midden,” explains Elizabeth, an enthusiastic member of the Young Archaeologists Club taking part in the dig.

A photo of a pile of rocks at a greenland archaeological site under a blue sky
© Courtesy Flodden 1513
“This is where people would have thrown rubbish such as butchered animal bones - ones people had had for their dinner - and pottery that had been thrown away because it smashed.

“I really enjoyed finding bits of medieval pottery and animal bones. It was very different to other sites I’d dug on because I found more stuff.

A photo of green farming fields under a blue sky with a river visible in the distance
© Courtesy Flodden 1513
“My friend Will found a hammered silver coin, called a long cross penny. It was probably from the time of Edward II or Edward III.

“I think everyone who came loved it, even though it was raining and cold. If you even went near a hole, you would be covered in mud.”

The ecomuseum is an open museum linking more than 40 museums and sites with connections to the Battle of Flodden.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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Corrected. Thanks Susan!
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