Historic coins found in Co Down classified as treasure

The Spanish '4 Reales' coin discovered in Cloughy
The Spanish '4 Reales' coin discovered in Cloughy

A team of metal detectorists got the news they had been waiting for when it was confirmed that a hoard of coins found in Co Down qualified as treasure.

The find at farmland in Cloughy of three Elizabeth I sixpences and a Spanish ‘4 Reales’ coin was declared treasure by Coroner Suzanne Anderson after hearing evidence from two of the three men who found the coins, the landowner and a local coin expert.

Eric Gywnne, 59, from Millisle, and his cousin Michael Gywnne, 55, from Kircubbin, had been using metal detectors on farmland owned by Niall Watson in August 2016 when they discovered a silver coin around 18 inches under the ground.

The coin turned out to be a ‘4 Reales’ – originating from one of Spain’s South American colonies and minted during the early 17th century.

A return visit to the site by Michael and his friend Paul Reynard from England uncovered three more coins – all hammered silver sixpences issued between 1561 and 1602.

Retired Ulster Museum curator Robert Heslip believed the coins had been stashed away in the area some time in the late 17th century, and could have been redeposited due to flooding.

The coins were declared treasure after meeting the criteria of being more than 300 years old, having a metal content greater than 10% and being part of a hoard rather than a single coin.

The coins will now be valued and offered to National Museums with the price split between the land owner and the finders.