A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 1

east anglia

Roman Treasure Hoards

During this period the country was shielded by the Roman fleet, the Roman army and the coastal fortresses. It remained very prosperous, but from the middle of the fourth century AD, an economic decline began. Villas were abandoned, the City of Venta Icenorum (Caistor St.Edmunds) lost its importance and many fenland farms were given up. The people, when faced with such uncertainty were often led to bury their most valuable things for safety. So, as the threat of revolt or invasion took place, the rich hoards of jewellery and other coins we find today were placed in the earth.

One of the most important hoards found in Suffolk is the Mildenhall Treasure, turned up by a ploughman during the 2nd World War. Over thirty items of almost pure silver had been buried in the 4th century, including dishes, bowls, goblets, ladles and spoons. The first item to come to light was a silver tray about 60.5cm in diameter which bore beautiful designs in relief of figures of pagan gods. Yet also among the hoard were three spoons with Christian symbols. For Christianity had been made official by Emperor Constantine in 313 AD and evidence has shown that it reached Britain before the Romans left the country. More recently another rich hoard has been located at Hoxne, where, among the many coins and other precious items are also inscriptions with Christian significance.

East Anglia has often been called the granary of England, and when the Romans occupied Britain, this part was an important grain growing area for them. Corn was exported to Rome, possibly from the harbour at Dunwich, among others, for we know it existed then and was important up to the Middle Ages. Many of the agricultural tools and farming equipment of later years had already been devised by the Roman period, and did not change greatly until the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century. Many of those excavated are made of iron, and have become corroded with rust, but their shapes are still recognizable.

Britain had been a Province of the Roman Empire for three and a half centuries, but by the late 4th century AD the Empire was in a state of collapse. The Roman troops were withdrawn across the Channel to the Continent, so that by about 420 AD the Roman Army no longer occupied Britain.


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