Thursday 2 June 2016

The Port Glasgow Hoard

In the summer of 1699 a hoard of old coins and Viking silver was found somewhere in Port Glasgow.

The antiquarian Robert Wodrow wrote to William Nicolson in July 1699 from Glasgow -
"I have lately received accompt from Neuport Glasgow, about 18 miles from this, there have been descovred there by the falling doun of some earth a great deal  of old coins and other things that have (been) hid there."
Some of the hoard was acquired by antiquarian James Sutherland, botanist and antiquarian, who was a keen collector of early coins.  The coins were described as Saxon, the latest dated from the reign of the English King Edgar (943-975).   However no proper records were kept, so it is impossible to say what else may have been found.  From written descriptions of the coins, a deposit date of around the 970s has been given to the Port Glasgow hoard.

Sutherland's collection was purchased by the Faculty of Advocates in 1705 and in 1873 the collection was acquired by the National Museum.  It was impossible to tell which coins were from the Port Glasgow hoard, but a photograph of the arm rings, still in the National Museum in Edinburgh, can be seen here.  One is plain silver of a type known as Viking ringmoney - so called because as well as showing the wealth of the owner, it could easily be cut up and used to purchase items  The other is a more decorative arm ring made of three twisted strands of silver.

Dumbarton Rock
We'll never know who left the hoard there and why.  The River Clyde saw a fair bit of Viking activity.  In 870 the Vikings laid seige to Dumbarton Rock for four months before successfully taking the stronghold .  400 years later the Battle of Largs (1263) took place between the Vikings and the army of King Alexander III.  Perhaps it wasn't even a Viking who left it there, but someone who traded up and down the west coast of Britain.  The then king of Strathclyde Mael Coluim was known to have attended Edgar's court in the 970s, so perhaps it was one of his retinue who, for whatever reason, hid the riches.

No location apart from the name of the town given as to where the hoard was found, but extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Glasgow for 6 May 1699 show that some work was being done to the busy harbour at Port Glasgow could this be how it was unearthed?


  1. Interesting little story, no doubt a lot more was found but never given in back in those days

    1. I'm sure there was - would love to know what else was found!

  2. I like the idea of money that you could wear (or jewellery that you can spend). I like the idea of just digging some up even more. If anybody wants me I'm out digging the garden.....

  3. 1699 seems long ago and then you think of 970! Fascinating.

    1. It is wonderful to have such a rich history!


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