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Police seized £500,000 of coins are believed to hold major historical significance and some date back to the reign of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex.
3 Mins

Seized Viking Coins Could Rewrite British History

Mark Falco
Mark Falco

Just weeks ago, police seized a huge haul of Viking coins worth £500,000 and leading historians say they have the potential to change British history.
During an investigation, police uncovered the hoard of coins and a solid silver bar from properties in County Durham and Lancashire.

The coins are believed to hold major historical significance and some date back to the reign of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex.

It is the legal responsibility of the finder of any precious metal objects that are over 300 years old. You must report them to the local coroner as possible treasure under the terms of the Treasure Act 1996.

Police have stated that a "number of people" were arrested on suspicion of dealing in "culturally tainted objects".

Now back to the compelling story and the significance of the coins...

Born between 847 and 849, Alfred was King of the West Saxons from 871 to 886. He later ruled as King of the Anglo-Saxons and was the dominant ruler of England until his death in 899.

King Alfred won a decisive victory in the Battle of Edington in 878 before making an agreement with the Vikings, creating what was known as Danelaw in the North of England.

Experts believe that these coins belong to an undeclared stockpile consistent with the location of the Viking army at that time.

Dr Gareth Williams, the curator of early medieval coins and Viking collections at the British Museum, described the coins as a "nationally important hoard".
During this period, Alfred the Great was fighting against the Vikings and this ultimately led to the creation of a unified kingdom of England.

Until this discovery, it was suggested that Ceolwulf of Mercia was simply a minor nobleman. The coins could reveal that he was, in fact, a proper king and the two rulers stood side by side as allies.

Ceolwulf is described in rather uncomplimentary terms in many surviving sources from Alfred's court. Interestingly, around 879, at the time that the hoard was buried, Ceowulf disappeared in a shroud of mystery.

It was after the disappearance that Alfred took over Ceolwulf's kingdom as well as his own and created the unified kingdom.

The coins point to a potential alliance between Alfred and Ceolwulf that was omitted from those sources in Alfred's court.

However, these same sources stress the importance of a new alliance with Viking leader Guthrum, a former enemy.
It is incredible that such a discovery has the potential to significantly affect our understanding of the political history of England in the 870s.

Alfred was given the epithet "the Great" during and after the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The only other king of England given this epithet is Cnut the Great.

In 2002, Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.