Monday, 10 January 2011

Treasure Trove on Plough Monday

Today is Plough Monday, as celebrated in the East of England by aspiring middle class people from suburbia. It's the first day of the agricultural year, when work on the land resumes after the Christmas period. As we're now signed up as Radical Homemakers, Domestic Goddesses and Urban Homesteaders, I got myself a diggin'.

And look, there's some blue sky here, after the gloom since the snow and ice melted. This weekend we went for a walk in Friday Woods, and started digging the new veg patch. Some of the patch hasn't been dug for thirty years, so it was hard work, and I spent some of the spadework time catching my breath. Looking at the soil I saw a small dull disc, and recognised I'd found an old coin. And now it's time for a history lesson, explaining why I was a tad excited.

Three thousand years ago our garden was part of a sandy heath and woodland that covered much of what is now named Essex. Two thousand years ago our suburban patch found itself within the massive Oppidum (a very large defended area) of the Trinovantes tribe (ancient Brits). Half a mile away at Gosbecks  the Trinovantes King Cunobelin had his Royal Palace. Two miles away in the other direction is modern day Colchester town centre, which nearly 2000 years ago was the Roman city of Colonia Victricencis, which was made Britain's first capital city. The two local historical sites fairly happily co-existed during the Roman period, apart from the Boudiccan uprising. The Romano/Brits built the largest theatre in Britain, and a massive temple, about half a mile from our house. As we live between the two sites I reckon it's not too fanciful to suggest that Celtic and Roman people were tramping through our garden two millenia ago.

During subsequent centuries, the Romans went away, the Saxons came, and then the Normans. Slowly, over the last thousand years, agriculture spread over the ancient heathland, and eventually our garden became part of Prettygate Farm, as an orchard. Meanwhile the ancient town of Colchester expanded, the farm was bought, and our housing estate was built in the late 1950s.

So when you find a coin in our garden, you wonder who dropped it. As picked up, it couldn't be identified, and a quick wash under the tap revealed a fairly smooth disc. Further careful cleaning revealed that it was a half-penny of King George the Fifth's reign, dated 1930.

Not exactly treasure trove. And we can only guess if it was dropped in the orchard, or was mislaid sometime after the house was built. Still, we had a good Plough Monday, and we wonder what other riches might come from our soil, or will it just be vegetables?

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