The Staffordshire Hoard has understandably attracted a large amount of interest since its discovery two years ago. Smaller hoards are by no means uncommon within the north of the county. In 1792 a collection of Roman coins was discovered in Rocester during the construction of the mill. In 1960 a further 2,400 Roman coins were unearthed at Lightwood Road, Longton, when the owner of the property was digging his garden. A lesser-known find is the collection of 900 silver coins, mostly shillings and sixpences dating from the Elizabethan period, discovered in the centre of Cheadle in 1934.
They were found at the High Street Garage, the property of Mr J Shufflebotham, during alterations. The person who actually found the hoard was named Jabez Salt. He and a companion, Mr Bentley, were working in the cellar when, within the walls between the arch and the floor they saw an object. Initially they thought it was a pipe but on closer inspection realised that it was an unglazed earthenware pot. When they removed the pot the collection of 900 coins showered out.
Although the majority of coins were Elizabethan, about forty dated from the reign of Edward VI, as well as undated copper one. Despite their antiquity the Elizabethan coins were not worth much above their face value, as finds from this period were not uncommon. The coins from the reign of Edward VI were more valuable.
An Inquest was held at Cheadle Police Court on November 28th. The Coroner, Mr Burne, explained the reason for the Inquest being to prevent the scattering of the coins, either through ignorance or greed. During the reign of Edward I an Act had been passed ordering that the duties of Coroners were to including making enquiries into discoveries such as this. Originally anything declared treasure trove went to the Crown, but by the 20th century the finders were usually given the value of the treasure, or the treasure itself if not deemed to be rare. Only objects of gold or silver were to be declared treasure trove, and then only if they had been intentionally hidden by a former unknown owner, rather than accidentally lost. The penalty for concealing a find was either fine or imprisonment. The Coroner stated that he had little doubt that these coins had been purposely hidden.
At the end of the Inquest the jury briefly retired before returning to deliver their verdict. They decided that the coins, being silver, were treasure; the coins had been purposely concealed; the finders were Mr Salt and Mr Bentley; and although the find had not been reported promptly no one was suspected of concealing. The pot, and the singular copper coin, was returned to Mr Shufflebotham, as owner of the premises.
The Coroner then took the coins on behalf of the King. Later the bulk of these were returned to the finders, together with the value of the rarer coins that were kept for museums in London.
An interesting sequel is that a Mr Brown of Blakeley Lane, in neighbouring Dilhorne, found a collection of forty-one coins in a heap in a corner of his field seven years later in 1941. Like the Cheadle hoard, these coins were also shillings and sixpences from the reign of Elizabeth.
Without the convenience of banks the safest method to store money was to hoard it, which was usually by burying it. Pots were by far the best receptacles, as unlike wood, these do not decay. The original owner of the hoard may have died before being able to retrieve it and there it lay undisturbed until discovered by chance three centuries later.