Recent Treasures of Cumbria

by Heather Ballantyne

Orton & Tebay Local History Society welcomed one of its own members, Professor Ian Carradice, to tell us about “Recent Treasures of Cumbria”.

Ian chose The Coinage of the Roman Empire to study at St. Andrews University and has since been on the Treasure Valuation Committee, which has the job of valuing all the treasure found in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
First of all we were asked “What is Treasure”? This can be anything that is meaningful to you but for this evening we were to learn about what is officially called treasure. It started in the middle ages when it was a means for the crown to obtain money. If anything of value was lost, when it was found it belonged to the crown. It was a way of the King making money.
In 1996 Treasure was redefined and It is all about metal, mainly gold or silver. Anything pre Roman made of any metal is considered treasure. Post Roman it has to contain some gold or silver. It also has to be that the owner or their descendants cannot be found. The Treasure Valuation Committee only deals with items that are wanted by a museum. If a museum wishes to buy found items the finder of the treasure is given a reward to the value decided by the committee. When a person finds an item it must be declared to the local coroner. Many people think that they own what they find but this is not so, and they are not entitled to keep anything found until the decision has been made by the coroner. If a museum is not interested the item is given back to the finder; if a museum is interested, the finder gets the market value of the find and they are not allowed to keep the item. It does not belong to them.
We looked at photographs of treasure found in Cumbria over the last few years. Only about 1% of treasure valued under the Valuations Committees' jurisdiction is found in Cumbria every year. This is probably because we have more sheep than people and it has always been so.
We were passed an old Roman silver coin from the 1st century to look at and asked to consider its value then and now. (At the end of the meeting we discovered this was the same – the price of a sheep).
We looked at the Crosby Garret Helmut find. It was not treasure as it did not fall within the category because it had been restored before it was declared. If it had been taken to a museum in pieces, as it was found, it would have been treasure but as it had been put back together it was a single item and therefore not treasure. It was undeniably an important item which is now in private hands. To cover this event happening again the law will have to be changed.
An interesting evening learning about treasure trove.