13th century coin unearthed on Battle of Lewes site

13th century coin found in battle of Lewes site survey
13th century coin found in battle of Lewes site survey

A tiny but significant find has delighted investigators involved in the archaeological search at the site of the Battle of Lewes.

They have unearthed a silver farthing at Landport Bottom, scene of a five-day hunt for clues to the fighting 749 years ago.

It did not spill from the purse of a knight in 1264, but remarkably it dates to the 13th century – and involves one of the personalities who actually took part in the battle.

The coin was minted in the reign of King Edward I, from 1272 to 1307, the eldest son of Henry III whose army clashed with that of the rebel barons under Simon de Montfort.

Edward possibly played a key role in the fact his father lost the battle. The Prince’s cavalry routed the Londoners on De Montfort’s left flank but he allowed his men to pursue them far from the field.

By the time he returned from the slaughter the day had been lost.

The coin was discovered towards the lower slopes of Landport Bottom and would not have been in circulation at the time of the battle. But it is a curious coincidence that such a relic from the era should have been found there.

Meanwhile, the battlefield investigation has discovered a mount for a horse pendant, the ‘bling’ with which rich knights showed their wealth on horse bridles. Only 4mm in diameter, it’s of the medieval period and would have held something sparkly.

Not so old but still of interest are 18th century buttons, a battered ring of indeterminate date, a Victorian 4d piece, farm implements and ordnance dating from the Second World War.

Battle of Lewes Officer Edwina Livesey said that while the Sussex Archaeological Society team might have longed to have found concrete battlefield evidence as they combed the site with metal detectors, the experience had been a triumph and “inspirational”.

She said: “We were delighted by the response from the public. It has caught everyone’s imagination. All those involved in the project have worked so well as a team – the volunteers have been magnificent.I would hope that from the lessons learned there will be more research at the site in the future.”

Stephanie Smith, Finds Liaison Officer, said that for centuries Landport Bottom had been cultivated and it was only in recent times that it became a protected site. From about the 1960s amateur metal detectorists might have investigated the area – and she appealed for them to come forward.

“We’d be delighted to see anything that might have been found in the Landport Bottom vicinity so we can build a bigger picture,” she said.