Earlier this week I was honoured to be invited to an event celebrating the publication of the research into Bath's Beau Street Hoard. I like to tell my guests on my Bath City Tour about the story of the Beau Street Hoard and so it was a privilege to meet the people who were directly involved with the project.
Back in November 2007 archaeologists were examining a site in the centre of Bath in advance of it being converted into a spa for a new luxury hotel - the Gainsborough Hotel. As they were digging they started to discover Roman coins. Being a Roman town this was perhaps unsurprising - however the sheer scale of what they found was beyond their expectations. In total 17,660 coins were excavated - making it one of the largest hoards discovered from a Romano-British town. A truly remarkable find. The coins had been stored in 8 bags - hidden in a stone-lined pit under the floor in the corner of a room. There was a Roman bathing complex located nearby and so it could have been connected to that but the honest truth is that we don't know why the coins were hidden and what they were for. It is believed that the coins were hidden around 275AD as there were no coins from after that date. The oldest coin dates back to 32-31BC.
Guests on my tour often ask me how much the coins were worth. In the past I have been given different figures and so I have ploughed through the minutes of the meetings of the national Treasure Valuation Committee to discover the correct answer. This committee is responsible for setting the price for archaeological discoveries that are classified as treasure so that they can be purchased by museums. This money is then split between the landowner and the finder. As these coins were discovered by a professional archaeologist there was sadly no reward for the finder although I am sure it will look great on her CV! Whilst us Bathonians would say that the hoard is price-less - it was given a value. The Beau Street Hoard was valued at £120,000 and it was purchased by the Roman Baths museum. Today you can see these coins in one of the many fascinating exhibits at the Roman Baths museum.
The event was held in the Chapel at the Gainsborough Hotel - just metres away from where the coins were originally discovered. I was delighted to meet the archaeologist who discovered the coins. I cheekily asked her whether she kept a coin as a memento to what could be the most important find of her career. She replied with a "No"!
These coins were only discovered in 2007 which begs the question - what else lies under the streets of Bath? There are talks of another historic site in Bath being converted into a spa hotel and so it will be interesting to see if this uncovers other secrets currently hiding under the streets of Bath!
To learn more about Bath and its fascinating history - why not join me on my popular Bath City Tour which is a great way to familiarise yourself with the city. Click here for more information on the tour.