Man’s joy at gold hoard find in garden

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A doctor digging in the garden of his family home struck gold when he unearthed a spectacular hoard of Civil War coins.

Dr Owen Johnson, 53, was inspecting a hole dug by builders in his garden in High Ackworth when he spotted a ceramic pot protruding from the dirt.

When he tried to dig the pot out it cracked open, spilling out a stream of gold and silver coins “like a slot machine”.

Just under 600 coins dating from around the 1640s were eventually found, along with a stunning gold ring bearing the romantic inscription “When this you see, remember me.”

Studies showed the find, with coins to the value of just over £85, was located near what looked like an old post, and could have been stashed underground by a Royalist who feared it would be looted by Roundhead troops.

Speaking outside Wakefield Coroner’s Court, where an inquest ruled the find belongs to the state yesterday, Dr Johnson said he had taken the day off from working at Pinderfields Hospital in July last year and was looking in the hole when he made the amazing discovery.

Dr Johnson, who lives with wife Barbara, 55, and daughters Pippa, 22, Tembe, 21, and Lucy, 17, said: “At first I thought the coins were some sort of toy, then we started having a closer look at them. The gold ones looked like they had just come out of a museum, and the ring is beautiful. It was then we started to realise this was something significant. It was very exciting and we just stood there for a long time looking at it.”

Council bosses in Wakefield are now hoping they can secure the hoard for display at Pontefract Museum.

Dr Johnson said: “Pontefract Museum is very interesting but it could do with some highlights and this would definitely be a highlight, which would be good because Pontefract’s history is sometimes undervalued.”

Lisa Dodd, Wakefield Council’s service director for sport and culture, added: “We believe these items have been in our district since the 1600s, making them a real part of this district’s rich history. It would be a great shame to not do all we can to try and keep the treasure in its rightful home for future generations to enjoy.

“The Wakefield district has a superb, nationally renowned heritage and Pontefract Museum would be a fitting home for the treasure.

“It would be yet another major attraction for visitors and contribute directly to the rich history of the area. It would also support the new Pontefract Castle development.”

The council will now wait for a valuation, after that it will be decided whether Dr Johnson will get any compensation. The hoard is more than 300 years old and so is covered by the Treasure Act 1996.