Generous donor presents Hereford Museum with valuable coin
A 1200-year-old rare coin has been donated by its owner to Hereford Museum.
The silver penny dates back to the reign of King Offa, the famous eighth century ruler of Mercia.
It was handed to Hereford Museum on Tuesday 28 February by Dr Jerry Davis who bought the coin at auction in 2022. In turn, Jerry offered the coin to the museum at minimal cost.
Helped by public donations received through the Herefordshire Museum Service Support Group, the museum seized the chance to purchase it.
In time, the coin will go on display in Hereford’s state-of-the-art museum and art gallery when the doors to the new building on Broad Street open in 2025.
The ‘King Offa’ penny was found in a field in Marden, just a few miles north of the museum in which it will be displayed. The metal detectorist who unearthed it in February 2022 ensured it was correctly recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as all archaeological finds in England and Wales should be.
The Marden and Sutton area was the location of ‘Offa’s palace’, the royal estate that continued to exist for centuries after the time of the kings Offa and Ceolwulf II, whose head appears on other coins that form part of the Herefordshire Hoard.
It’s the same area where Offa is said to have murdered King Ethelbert of East Anglia and where Ethelbert’s decapitated body was laid in Marden Church before being transported to Hereford in 794. A shrine to St Ethelbert remains in place in Hereford Cathedral.
The museum is delighted to acquire the penny, which was minted in Canterbury by coin-maker Babba between the years 783-792. Considering its age, it’s in very good condition. Its association with King Offa makes it of huge interest to Herefordshire, given his historical significance in the county.
Dr Jerry Davis says:
“I’m delighted that the coin will ultimately be displayed alongside other fantastic treasures in Hereford’s redeveloped museum. Rare artefacts keep local people and visitors interested in the county’s history. They bring stories to life. They help people make a connection with history that words alone can’t always do. For example, people will be able to see how skilful coin-makers were even 1200 years ago, which may deepen their interest in that period. Their experience will be intensified when the penny is displayed alongside other fascinating finds like the Herefordshire Hoard. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the museum puts these significant treasures on display for people to enjoy and learn from.”
Judy Stevenson, museum team leader, says:
“Everyone at the museum is so very grateful to Dr Davis for donating this wonderful artefact, linked to one of the region’s most significant historical figures. The museum loves both the support and generosity of people and their enthusiasm for their local heritage and past stories.”
The coin will go on temporary display in Hereford Museum from March 1 to May 31, 2023.