Synton Hill coins find returns to Borders

Fiona Colton, SBC Senior Museums Curator inspects a coinn from the roman Synton hoard.
Fiona Colton, SBC Senior Museums Curator inspects a coinn from the roman Synton hoard.

A hoard of 228 Roman coins found on Synton Hill, near Ashkirk, in 2011 has gone on display at Melrose’s Trimontium Museum.

The coins, dating from the 1st to 2nd centuries AD, and depicting Roman Emperors from Vespasian to Commodus, as well as their wives and children, were unearthed by Hawick metal detectorist Jim Middleton.

Jim Middleton, who found the Roman coins at Synton Hill.

Jim Middleton, who found the Roman coins at Synton Hill.

“This is a feather in our cap, so we’re really pleased,” the Trimontium Trust’s Donald Gordon said. “The gods are on our side.”

Jim Middleton, who found the silver denarii coins, explained: “At first glance they looked nothing special – encrusted with dirt, some stuck together and all the coins discoloured and green with oxidation.

“However, I thought they might include something interesting, so I gathered them all up for safekeeping in a takeaway tub while I sought further advice.

“They turned out to be extremely important and the rest, as they say, is history!”

The antique hoard was brought to the attention of local historian and Trimontium Museum trustee Walter Elliott and the hoard was claimed by the Crown under the Treasure Trove allocation process.

In order to secure the coins for the Borders, a fundraising and education campaign was started by the council’s museum and gallery service and the Trimontium Museum Trust.

The cost of acquisition from the Crown was £10,000, with essential cleaning and conservation work estimated at another £1,200.

Half the cost was awarded by the National Fund for Acquisitions and from the council’s Community Fund, as well as generous donations from individuals.

Councillor Vicky Davidson, executive member for culture, sport, youth and communities said: “The coins offer a fascinating insight into coinage produced under 11 of Rome’s emperors.

“It is very fitting that the Roman silver coin hoard is placed on display in 2013, as this year marks Trimontium Museum’s silver jubilee.

“I would encourage everyone to go along and see this silver hoard as a unique part of the Borders’ history and heritage.”

Fiona Colton of the council’s museum service devised a clock-shaped display ‘tray’ with its 14 compartments separating each Emperor’s coins.

The coins’ designs highlight emperors’ achievements and families, and date from Emperor Vitellius (69 AD) who reigned for one year only, to Crispina, the long-suffering wife of maverick emperor Commodus (177-192 AD).

The entire hoard is on display at Trimontium Museum in the Corn Exchange, Melrose, and will be available for the public to view there until the end of October.

Thereafter the hoard will be exhibited at Halliwell’s House Museum, during Scott’s Selkirk weekend, and later as part of an education programme and exhibition in Peebles.

Councillor Jim Torrance, who represents the council on Trimontium Museum Trust’s board, said: “I have followed the progress of acquiring and conserving the coins with great interest and I’m delighted to support the vital partnership between SBC’s museums service and Trimontium Museum to secure this important permanent addition to Roman collections in the Borders.”