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Silver penny returns from the cleaners

An Anglo-Saxon silver penny, recovered during the excavations on the St James’s development in Dover last summer, has now been carefully cleaned allowing it to be dated to around AD 800.

The coin was found at a depth of about 9 feet when a trench for a replacement sewer was being excavated across the site of the former East Kent bus garage, off St James’s Street. The find is one the oldest and most interesting to be made during the St James’s project. Although identifiable as a ‘penny’, in its time the coin would have had the purchasing power of a present-day £10 or £20 note, suggesting that the Anglo-Saxon person who lost it would not have been very happy.

The coin, itself, was issued by Coenwulf, King of Mercia (now the English Midlands), who reigned from 796 until his death in AD 821. Some background research takes us into the complex, shadowy world of Anglo-Saxon power politics in which Kent features quite significantly. Once an important independent kingdom, by the eighth century Kent had lost its much of its former status. In 764 the powerful King Offa of Mercia gained supremacy over the county, ruling it through local client kings. The death of Offa in 796 signaled the time for a major Kentish rebellion. Although this was initially successful, in 798 Offa’s successor, King Coenwulf, invaded Kent with a great army. He deposed and captured the rebel leader and made his own brother, Cuthred, king of Kent. After Cuthred’s death in 807, Coenwulf ruled Kent directly from his capital at Tamworth in modern Staffordshire.

Throughout these troubled times Dover appears to have remained a busy settlement and port. Very few Anglo-Saxon coins have ever been previously recovered from the town, despite the fact that Dover had its own mint from about 928 until 1158.
Anglo-Saxon coin of CoenwulfAnglo-Saxon coin of Coenwulf reverse

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