Try as I might, I haven’t been able to put to one side my new-found fascination with the mid-Anglo-Saxon coins of Surrey. One issue in particular continued to play on my mind in the wake of finishing my first attempt to interpret the evidence (‘Coins, cloth and Chertsey’, for those who have not come across it before). Rather than displaying an uninterrupted profile of coin loss across the two centuries circa 675-875, the county’s numismatically “productive places” belong to one of two distinct types: those that are the provenance of multiple “proto-pennies”, and those which are rich in broad-flan pennies of the second half of the eighth century and first quarter of the ninth. An excellent new book (plus a few older works) has allowed me to put together a possible explanation for why this should be. This is set out at length in ‘Mercian markets at minor minsters?’, whose title may be a tad overly-aliterative but nevertheless reflects how I have broadened out the contextual scope of my original piece to take in such under-investigated subjects as the political control of Surrey over the course of the eighth century and the changes experienced by a group of minsters for which no charters or other documents have survived. Again, it doesn’t pretend to provide all of the answers but does identify meaningful trends by means of alternative disciplinary angles, especially historical (I’ve not long finished reading this 2007 article by John Naylor concerning much the same material and questions from Yorkshire and was surprised to find that similar variations were appraised in purely economic terms rather than with reference to the political or social context as well). To use – nay, misuse – numismatic nomenclature, you could say that if my original analysis is the obverse, then the new piece is the reverse of this particular (or should that be peculiar?) coin.
This will not be the last you will hear from me on the subject. As I envisage it, the two pieces (plus update) I have written so far cover most of the relevant decades and themes and are crying out for publication, but this should be achieved by presenting them in a different manner. To this end, I am preparing to write a paper on Lambeth alone, placing its coins and textual testimony in the context of Lundenwic more than its fellow hyth-names or nearby monastic or monastic-linked neighbours. Encouragingly, I’ve had a provisional thumbs-up for the finished article to be published in a future issue of London Archaeologist. Second – and this is some way off – I want to produce a full summary of all early medieval coinage and associated contemporary artefacts from Surrey as a means of establishing a baseline against which future finds can be tested. Will further discoveries not only seal the status of the “productive places” identified so far but raise them to a level comparable with the materially-prolific sites which appear time and again in the published scholarship? Or, to go to the opposite extreme, have they yielded the bulk of their mid Anglo-Saxon artefacts already? Might entirely new “productive places” be identified? Will place-names or field-names inspire or explain future discoveries? At the micro level, can specific “productive sites” be pinpointed within such parishes? Could their original function(s) be determined through their artefacts or will it require the input of historical and archaeological perspectives for credible interpretations to be advanced? The intention is that I keep a watching brief on things for, say, a decade or more then revisit the data and interrogate it in the same inter-disciplinary manner. I’m in it for the long haul, that’s for sure.