When I was at middle school (it’s a Surrey thing, for children between the ages of 8 and 11), I had two friends who collected things. Terry collected keys and Tim collected coins. At the time it was keys that interested me more; certainly I was more than a little jealous when Terry persuaded Mr Parris the school caretaker to give him all of the old keys that fitted in locks long since replaced. Fast forward two decades and keys are more a source of frustration than fascination to me, being things I manage to forget or mislay on at least a weekly basis (though they always turn up in my duvet of all places). Coins, by contrast, nowadays are very much flavour of the month in my research, none more so than those minted, circulated and lost in the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries. I’d known about the importance of sceattas as they’re no longer allowed to be called for a few years, having encountered them for the first time when reading about mid-Anglo-Saxon trading networks and hierarchies with an eye on how they might be reflected in contemporary Old English place-naming practices. Not long after, I discovered the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, finds.org.uk, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were a healthy number of coins of the period recorded from across Surrey. Nevertheless, it took a new book, the widely-held belief that there’s not much evidence from the middle Anglo-Saxon centuries in Surrey and one epiphany in the middle of St James’ Park on the walk into work for me to calendar all the relevant data a couple of weeks ago (or at least as much as I could amass over the course of a weekend) and then assess it and finally offer a few suggestions about interesting, possibly significant facets of it.
The result of my endeavours, ‘Coins, cloth and Chertsey: towards an understanding of trade and trading networks in Surrey, circa 650-900′, is now at a point, after a week of various issues with WordPress, where I’m happy to advertise it for people to click through and read it. In fact, thanks to some judicious tag choices on Academia.edu, it’s proved really rather popular already (albeit most people who viewed it that way were met with a version containing legion small and not-so small errors). Now numismatics is not my area of expertise, any more than some of the other subjects I have dared to write about here, so I hope it will be understood as an attempt by one person to offer a preliminary, partial analysis of the data from a number of different disciplinary perspectives (geography, history, toponymy). As much as there evidently is more work that can be done on the existing dataset, let alone on incorporating the evidence from new finds as and when they are reported and recorded, I feel I have done more or less as much as I am able to given my limited knowledge. Nonetheless, I welcome all comments and questions about what I have written to the usual address – firstname.lastname@example.org (thanks to Tony for his lengthy and thought-provoking email).