The Cuerdale Hoard

The Cuerdale hoard

Given by HM Queen Victoria via the Duchy of Lancaster. Part on loan from the Assheton Collection.

Britain, Europe and Prehistory
1841,0711.1–741; 1873,1101.1; 1954,0202.1–2; CM 1838,0710.1436, 1442, 1168, 1203

This exceptional silver treasure consists of over 8,500 objects buried in a lead-lined chest. It was found by workmen in the bank of the River Ribble in 1840. They immediately began to fill their pockets with the silver coins. On the arrival of the bailiff, they were ordered to empty their pockets, but he did allow them to keep one piece each.

The hoard mainly consists of coins, together with ingots, amulets, chains, rings and cut-up brooches and armlets. Five bone pins were recorded, which may have originally fastened cloth bags containing the silver, but these have not survived.

Such a great weight of silver, almost forty kilos, was probably the collected wealth of many persons, rather than one individual. Silver formed the basis of currency in the Viking Age and it was often buried in times of unrest. The latest coins enable us to establish quite accurately when the Cuerdale hoard was buried. Based on this, and the Irish origin of much of the silver jewellery, we can speculate that it was buried by Vikings after they were expelled from Dublin in 902, who then failed to return to reclaim it. Cuerdale lies at the beginning of an overland route to Viking York.

Most of the coins were minted in Viking England. Some are of Anglo-Saxon, Continental and Arabic origin, which indicates extensive trading or political links at this time. Much of the other material is typically Irish or Hiberno-Viking in form and decoration.