Jewellery from the Fishpool hoard
Medieval, mid-15th century
Made in England and Flanders; Found at Fishpool, Nottinghamshire, England
On 22 March 1966 an unusual hoard was discovered on a building site at the village of Fishpool. It comprises 1,237 coins, four rings, four pieces of jewellery and two lengths of chain. The rings are probably English. One is set with a turquoise, which was believed to protect the wearer from poisoning, drowning or from having an accident while riding. Another ring, of plain gold, carries an English inscription inside the hoop which means 'Lift up your whole heart'. Another has the figure of a saint and the motto 'en bon cuer' (in good heart). A variation of the same motto - 'de bon cuer' - occurs on the signet ring which bears the device of a hawk's lure.
The small padlock has an inscription which reads on one side 'de tout' and on the other 'mon cuer' (of all my heart). The most elaborate inscription appears on the back of the heart shaped brooch - 'je suys vostre sans de partier' (I am yours wholly). The other jewellery items are the two chains, a pendant cross with a ruby, four amethysts and four projections which would originally have held pearls, and a roundel decorated with enamel and set with a sapphire.
The hoard was unusual because it contained both coins and jewellery made entirely of gold. Finding coins in such close association with items of jewellery means that we can date them quite accurately. The latest coins all date before August 1464, and most of the pieces of jewellery have very little wear, which suggests that they were reasonably new when placed in the ground. It is thus likely that they date to the middle of the fifteenth century. The presence of foreign coins also confirms stylistic elements of the jewellery as likely to be Flemish or Burgundian.
Why would someone conceal such valuable items in the ground? And who would they have belonged to? Hoards were often buried as the safest means of storing valuables for a short amount of time during periods of crisis. In this instance, the most turbulent historical event which may be associated with the burial of the hoard was the Battle of Hexham in May 1464. In fifteenth-century terms the value of the coins would come to £400, a considerable amount of money at that time. The owner was either an extremely rich merchant, or one of the notable protagonists in the Wars of the Roses.
J. Cherry, 'The medieval jewellery from the Fishpool, Nottinghamshire, Hoard', Archaeologia-3, 104 (1973)
J. Robinson, Masterpieces: Medieval Art (London, British Museum Press, 2008)
J. Cherry, Medieval craftsmen: goldsmiths (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)