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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Coin hoard declared treasure
Some of the coins
The coins were uncovered by volunteers walking in a field
The largest hoard of Iron Age gold and silver coins ever found in Britain has been officially declared treasure.

More than 3,000 coins were found by a group of amateur archaeologists while out walking near Market Harborough, Leicestershire, nearly three years ago.

The find, which pre-dates the Roman invasion of 43 AD also includes a Roman cavalry helmet, suggesting the original owner may have travelled to the continent.

No value has yet been put on the discovery, which has been deemed "of international importance", but numismatists said just one silver coin from the same period can fetch up to 50.

Extraordinary find

An inquest at Leicester Town Hall, open to the public but held behind locked doors because of the value of the haul, heard that Ken Wallace made the first discovery while out walking on November 19, 2000.

The 62-year-old retired design technology teacher unearthed about 130 coins with his metal detector after spotting two fragments of Roman denarii coins in about five to six inches of soil.

Ken Wallace
Ken Wallace found most of the coins
Dr Jonathan Williams, curator of Iron Age and Roman coins at the British Museum's department of coins and metals, told the hearing that on seeing the collection he immediately realised they were "extraordinary" and "very unusual".

He felt almost all belonged to or were made by the people of the Corieltauvi, a rural tribe of farmers who had settled in the area at the time.

Archaeologists, who are still working at the secret location, think the area was used for ritual and religious purposes.

Any museums that wants to house the collection will have to pay its valuation rate, with the money going to Mr Wallace and the land owner, but the treasure will officially belong to the Crown.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Wallace said it had been difficult keeping the discovery under wraps for the past two and a half years.

But he added: "It's been very enjoyable. It's been almost a perfect piece of community archaeology."

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