The Shelly Hoard

One of the greatest finds of all time was the famous Staffordshire Hoard. Anglo Saxon treasure at its best. However, not many people have heard of the Shelly Hoard. In 1989-1990, on several occasions, Mr. M. Williams was treasure hunting with his metal detector in Monkspath when he started unearthing silver pennies dating back to King John and Henry III. The coins were found on open ground near Shelly Coppice.

The coins themselves were found close together within a few square yards. There were 14 coins and 2 fragments. Eleven are short cross minted in places as diverse as London, Canterbury, Northampton, Ipswich, Norwich and Lincoln. Four of the pennies are from the reign of  King John made in Dublin by the moneyer Roberd.

Shelly was a small hamlet in the early 13th century with a dozen families living here farming the fields communally in strips. The earliest documentation we have of shelly is in a deed of the later 12th century when William de Beaumont, third Earl of Warwick (1153-84) granted the manor of Monkspath, adjoining Shelley to the south and west to Roger de Ulehale of Tanworth with other lands in the district.

A trackway from Shelly Lane ran eastwards towards Bentley Heath and Knowle in medieval times and it was close to this area that the coins were discovered. How did they get there? It is possible that the coins were in a purse that may have been dropped accidentally or buried on purpose. Silver pennies were of considerable value at that time. There is no certain date for the burial of these coins, but it certainly was no later than 1230. Over time the coins were probably scattered by the plough.

There is a suggestion that as some of the coins were Irish they might have belonged to an Irish traveller. Another suggestion is that Monkspath was a route from the l2th century, where monks from Bordesley Abbey in Redditch passed through on the way to Merevale Abbey near Atherstone. It seems reasonable to think that Irish Catholic monks would have passed this way between 1148 and 1230. A network of paths from Redditch passed through Cheswick Green and Monkspath, which have long since disappeared. A few years ago a bronze crucifix of a type the monks would have worn on a chain, was found in a field near Tanworth Lane close to Cheswick Green.

The coins had to be declared by law, and the Birmingham Coroner was informed but due to the fact that the coins had been found over time it was decided not to proceed with a treasure trove inquest. A full record was made and the finder was allowed to keep them. Mr. Williams offered them to Warwick County Museum, but the museum already had examples. However, they were kind enough to mount the coins in a specially made display case.

The story has a happy ending. Rather than selling them or storing them where few people would see them Mr. Williams’s widow has generously made a gift of the Shelly Hoard to Earlswood Village Museum, together with a larger collection of coins dating from Tudor times to King George VI, in memory of her husband.

By Val Tonks

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