TWO tiny Roman coins unearthed by volunteers at Lytham Hall have opened a fascinating new chapter in the hall’s colourful history – and sparked a mystery.
For the two coins are believed to be the earliest archaeological finds made – not just at the hall but anywhere in the town.
The coins – known as radiates – were discovered by Hall gardening volunteers Julia Lipman and Peter Smith and are more than 1750 years old, according to Harris Museum, Preston.
They were issued for the Roman emperor Gallienus who reigned jointly with Valerian between 253-260 and then became sole ruler of the empire in 260-268.
And that makes them almost 100 years older than any previous Roman coin finds in Lytham – and amazingly there were nine officially recorded last year – mostly found by metal detectorists along the banks of the River Ribble.
That means that the two latest finds were in use many centuries even before the Benedictine Priory was founded on the Lytham Hall site in 1189 – and as there has been no previous evidence of Roman occupation, this has got historians baffled.
One theory is that the two coins may have been accidentally dropped in the ground many centuries later by children – presumably ancestors of the Squires of Lytham, the Clifton family – while playing with them in the garden.
Volunteers Julia from St Annes, and Peter from Blackpool, had been working on a bedding plot beneath the Monks wall – just yards from the main hall building – when they made their discovery.
Peter, a retired BNFL worker with metal detecting experience, said: “I just glanced down while walking past and noticed the coin shaped object straight away. Coincidentally I had picked up an old penny from the same area the previous day.
Julia, a retired nurse, added: “Within a matter of minutes of Peter’s discovery I found the second – both are incredibly clean coins for their age.”
Matthew Ball, Project Curator of Money Matters at the Harris Museum, said: The coins are known as ‘radiates’, after the sun crown worn by emperors on coinage of this date. We don’t actually know for sure what the Romans called this denomination of coin, so ‘radiate’ has stuck!
“One of the coins is from the Mint of Rome and clearly shows the name of the emperor Gallienus . The second shows a head of the fertility goddess Uberitas holding a purse and cornucopia.”
He added: “From our record, several Roman coins have been found in Lytham but all are of a later date than the Hall coins by circa 100 years.”
Peter raised the theory that the two coins were probably dropped not in Roman times but by their later owners -presumably children.
“There is a collection of ancient artefacts in the hall, and I think the coins would have originally been part of that collection. There is no evidence of Roman or indeed Mediaeval occupation in Lytham. If there was we would have expected to find evidence of pottery of the period and there is none.
Harris history curator James Arnold confirmed that they have no Roman archaeology catalogued in their collection which had been found in Lytham.