Four may share reward for Dallinghoo Gold

FOUR people may be vying for a stake in the country's biggest ever haul of iron age gold coins - unearthed in Suffolk and thought to be worth over half a million pounds - an inquest heard yesterday.

Lizzie Parry

FOUR people may be vying for a stake in the country's biggest ever haul of iron age gold coins - unearthed in Suffolk and thought to be worth over half a million pounds - an inquest heard yesterday.

The remarkable discovery of the Dallinghoo Gold was made in a field in the small Suffolk village last year by a metal detector enthusiast.

But the inquest was told yesterday that the two landowners, the original finder of the gold coins and a second metal detectorist would now have to decide where the proceeds went.

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The two metal detectorists were represented by different lawyers at the hearing.

However, Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean recorded the finder of the first gold - Michael Darke - as the initial finder of the treasure.

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In March last year Mr Darke was metal detecting on the land owned by Clifford Green and his brother John Green.

The 60-year-old, who has been metal detecting for some 25 years, first found one single coin but decided to come back to the site a week later after discovering on the internet it was an Iceni gold stater.

He said: “I was out looking for a structure there in the 16th century and I was hoping to find what was left of it and bob's your uncle. I was totally surprised.

“I have never found gold before, when I got home and realised what it was I sat looking at it for about an hour.”

The following week he uncovered a further eight gold coins and noted a strong signal coming from the area.

The next day he invited fellow metal detecting enthusiast Keith Lewis, who he had known for many years, to accompany him to the site.

Mr Lewis said when he arrived at the site he too recognised the “large signal” in the area, prompting them to dig and uncover the coins.

He said: “I have always been lucky, lucky from the word go really, I thought I might find something like this one day.

“I have never gone anywhere without permission. I was so shocked there was so much there, I was excited.”

Ian Leins, curator of Iron Age and Roman age coins at the British Museum, said the find was very unusual and the biggest of its kind in modern Britain.

“It is the largest haul of Iron Age gold coins of modern times,” he said. “You have to go back as far as 1849 to find another large hoard at Wadden Chase, Buckinghamshire.

“Gold coins are very unusual to get in very large hoards, in the thousands, most are groups of between 20 and 30, maybe up to 100.”

Dr Dean labelled the haul “incredible” and a “very significant find”.

He said the inquest was not designed to determine the “benefits awarded to each party” but that “agreement would have to be between those party's involved”.

Mr Darke said he was not prepared to discuss any financial arrangements between him and Mr Lewis.

When asked what advice he would have for other potential metal detectors he said: “Check the rules and make sure you have the permission of the landowner.

“Be careful who you tell and take with you because it can backfire.

“I haven't got any coins I wish I had just one. I don't know what happens now. Hopefully there will be a reward for this.

“I don't do it for the money but if they are going to throw money at me I won't not take it.”

The treasure will now be valued by a valuation committee under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to establish the basis of the reward.

Ipswich and Colchester Museum service have expressed their interest to ensure the gold coins are on display locally and will have to raise the necessary funds.

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