One Autumn day in 2019 when walking across a ploughed field in Ropley I found what began a three year long obsession. An enigmatic potsherd which had been laying in the field for centuries, was soon spotted then rapidly found its way into my hands and into my pocket. I was eager to find out more. I went online and searched ‘pottery shard’ and was soon corrected by google, a ‘shard’ refers to glass and ‘sherd’ refers to pottery, nevermind. I came across some pictures which had examples of medieval, roman and tudor pottery. Before long I had identified this small finger sized potsherd as a 600 year old medieval sherd from a jug and I was eager to go out again.
3 years later I have amassed thousands of finds, ranging from over 12,000 years of human history. These finds; potsherds, worked flints, coins, buckles, buttons, glass, tokens and any other archaeology I can find, take up a lot of space (most of my room to be exact). In 2020 I got a metal detector and went around Ropley asking locals if I could search for metal finds in the paddocks, fields and back gardens.
2022 has proven to be a very good year for finding archaeology, so as the year gradually draws to a close and I am off to university I thought I could share the best finds from Ropley of this year.
In August I found this Tudor buckle near Gilbert Street. These types of buckles were relatively common buckles worn and eventually lost by a local at some point in the 1500s. It is my largest buckle and in my opinion my best. It has its small iron pin missing, perhaps the reason which it was lost, or disposed of. This find gives an insight to the life of an everyday person in Ropley. It wasn’t an expensive luxury worn by some cruel lord, but an everyday find from a normal person.
At the start of the year, whilst on a walk with my girlfriend we discovered a 6,000 year old Neolithic scraper. This tool, a scraper, was used to scrape animal hides, wood or any other scraping application. It was made by a human from the Neolithic period (the late stone age) by working a small flint nodule with a larger hammer stone. The tools and waste flakes made by these peoples are often the only artifacts left over from their time, as the bones, antlers and skins often all rot away. This tool is from an area of high activity from the stone ages and suggests a settlement here, with hundreds of stone age finds being uncovered there.
During detectoring in the east of Ropley I found this very well preserved 1699 half penny from King William III. This coin found near another William III coin and over 20 other late 17th century finds point to a peak of activity in that area associated with Brick kilns active there from the late 1600s to mid 1700s. Buttons and buckles were also uncovered, likely lost during the labour intensive duties of collecting the clay and then firing it. This coin was not small change, losing it would’ve been akin to dropping a two pound coin. It may be that the owner spent time trying to find it but eventually gave up.
Another find with a more sentimental meaning was this Victorian farthing from 1860 which was turned into a pendant by melting a hole through it. The item of jewelry maybe worn by a child or a farm worker was worth about 10 pence in todays money, by far not something a well off person would have worn. Perhaps it was given as a token of love or simply made as an easy and cheap pendant. The practice of turning currency into jewelry is a very old practice, in the UK Anglo-saxon invaders took old roman coins and similarly turned them into pendants.
I was incredibly lucky to find this trading coin, aso known as a jetton, earlier this year. The thin hammered coin was made in Nuremberg, Germany by Wolf Laufer at some point from the late 1550s until the early 1600s. The text around the coin reads ‘gotes Gaben sol man lob’ which in 1500s German reads ‘Gods gifts should be praised’. And on the other side it reads ‘Wolf Laufer in Nurnbeg’. These tokens were in use from the 1300s up to modern times. They were especially popular in the post medieval period (1500s-1700s) when many European currencies faced inflation and there were currency shortages.
These finds all demonstrate a beautifully dense history of Ropley and its people. I find we are always so focused on the big moments of history- the great battles and the “benevolent” monarchs yet we take little time to realise the history and archaeology around us. It is fascinating to consider who made, held, used and then dropped these items, what lives they lived and that we live in their footsteps. That’s the most addictive thing about these finds; the stories they tell us.