5 thoughts on “The Heworth 1812 Hoard: A Cold Case Reconsidered – Hugh Pagan

  1. This is an absolutely fascinating account of a coin hoard find. Not being an expert in this area of numismatics what I find difficult to understand, unless I have mis-read parts of the article, is why no one else was involved in the find. Normally, I believe, it is the ‘grave digger’ or ‘ditch digger’ that finds the coins, puts a few in his pocket and then informs the ‘Lord of the manor’ and is subsequently rewarded with a silver sixpence. If this account does not involve anyone else then my question is what was the Rev. John Hodgson doing digging in the churchyard?

    • Thank you very much for the comment. If the story is truthful that the coins and pot were found while digging a grave, the options would seem to be either that the perpetrator (presumably in that case Hodgson) directed the digging of a new grave by a grave digger at a place in the churchyard where the coins and pot had already been buried, or that the perpetrator (whether Hodgson or some one else) took advantage of the fact that the digging of a grave had already commenced and planted the coins and pot in it, in the grave digger’s absence, just below the level which the grave digger had then reached. I do agree that it is difficult to visualise how the operation was carried out, and another possibility is of course that the story that the coins and pot were found while digging a grave is an invention.

      • Thank you Hugh for this fascinating account of the Heworth 1812 Hoard. I am fully in accord with Eric’s appreciation of your article. Your scrupulous examination of the possible involvement of the various protagonists, reveals that evidence implicating any of these individuals is in most cases contradicted by opposing circumstance or learned opinion, a truly perplexing conundrum.

        There is also the remarkable fact that respected contemporary numismatists accepted the legitimacy of the Ecgfrith coins. The publications of Ruding, Akerman and Till all accord them legitimate status.

        It may be that any attempt at constructing a logical explanation of events, is confounded by an illogical perpetrator. Individuals having odd beliefs can appear quite sane if they keep their beliefs or intentions to themselves. The motives of a perpetrator in such a circumstance may be impossible to fathom, especially when the investigation is so removed in time from the events.

        A biography of John Adamson is provided in an anonymously authored article in Willis’s Current Notes, for October, 1855, pp. 78-79. Another note by a Welsh antiquarian, Gwilym Glan Tywi on p. 92 of the following November issue, states that “Mr. Adamson’s acquirements as a numismatist were very extensive, whether measured by his acquaintance with ancient coins, or by his collection of them”. The reference you have given for Adamson’s account of stycas found at Hexham (Archaeologia 1834, vol. xxv., pp. 279-310) notes Adamson’s reading of LVN rather than LVX on the reverse of his Ecgfrith coin (p. 291) “which may either be the name of the moneyer or the place of mintage”, again with no expression of doubt as to the coin’s legitimacy. Glan Tywi lists a supplementary note by Adamson in Archaeologia 1836, vol. xxvi., pp. 346-348.

        As an aside, these references to Adamson were brought to light in “A Descriptive Index of Numismatic and Related Contributions to Willis’s Current Notes 1851-1857”. This index can be accessed at: https://www.academia.edu/58265375/A_Descriptive_Index_of_Numismatic_and_Related_Contributions_to_Williss_Current_Notes_1851_1857?from_sitemaps=true&version=2

        • Thanks for the kind remarks. It is appropriate to record that Hodgson was himself confident that the reverse inscription should be read as LVX (light), which, in his own words, “clearly points out the glorious light which the religion of the cross is calculated to throw upon the world” (Archaeologia Aeliana, 1822, vol.1, 125). Edward Hawkins also read the reverse inscription as LVX, which he saw as reflecting the fact that King Ecgfrith was “impressed with … the importance of disseminating the light of truth” (E.Hawkins, The Silver Coins of England, 1841, 137).

  2. Peter Preston-Morley has helpfully drawn my attention to the fact that John Bell, the Newcastle-upon-Tyne bookseller who was a recipient from Hodgson of one of these “Ecgfrith” coins, was responsible for the issue of a group of white metal farthing tokens dated 1815, evidently aimed at collectors rather than for commercial use. Bell may well also have been responsible for a similar token dated 1812, although this is not explicitly identified as coming from him. He was thus employing a reasonably accomplished die-engraver at much the same time as the “Ecgfrith” forgeries were produced. It is however difficult to figure how John Bell, if it was he who saw to the planting of the “Ecgfrith” coins in Heworth churchyard, could have worked alongside Hodgson in the early days of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne – Bell was the Society’s first Hon.Treasurer, and thus a very close colleague of the Society’s first joint Hon.Secretaries, Hodgson and Adamson – without coming clean to Hodgson about what he had done. He might, under my alternative scenario, have been Hodgson’s so far unidentified collaborator, but here again it is difficult to see how Hodgson and Bell could have worked together with Adamson without coming clean to Adamson about the fraud.
    Bell’s tokens are recorded in the standard works of reference by Batty and W.J.Davis, but Peter Preston-Morley has been kind enough additionally to direct me to a recent article on them by Allan Davisson, ‘The 19th century Newcastle Farthing white metal issues’, Conder Token Collectors Journal no.66, December 2013.

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