Doctor hits the jackpot

Gold ring found in Ackworth hoard
Gold ring found in Ackworth hoard

AN Ackworth family has struck gold after discovering a hoard of Civil War coins in their garden.

Dr Owen Johnson, 53, was inspecting building work at his home in High Ackworth last July when he spotted a ceramic pot poking out of the earth.

The father-of-three told a treasure trove inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court on Tuesday that as he pulled the discovery from the ground, the pot cracked in two spilling out gold and silver coins “like a slot machine.”

Almost 600 gold and silver Civil War coins dating from the mid 1600s were discovered in the hoard along with a gold posy ring bearing the romantic inscription: “When this you see remember me.”

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Johnson – who has lived at the house in Ackworth for 17 years with wife Barbara, 55, and daughters Pippa, 22, Tembe, 21 and Lucy, 17 – said the family used to dig for buried treasure in their garden when the children were small.

He said he had taken the day off from his job at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield on the day of the find and was looking in a hole when he made the discovery.

He added: “I saw the rim of the pot and gave it a pull and all these coins spilled out. At first I thought they were toys but then we started to have a closer look at them.

“The gold ones looked like they came from a museum, they looked absolutely perfect. I thought if they were anything other than gold they would have gone green by now – that’s when I realised this was something significant.

“It’s been exciting. It’s not often you go into your garden and find gold coins.”

Dr Johnson said Pontefract was a royalist stronghold during the 1600s and he thought the coins – which are worth about £85 in today’s money – could have been stashed underground for fear of looting by parliamentary troops.

Wakefield Council bosses now hope to acquire the hoard for display in Pontefract Museum.

Dr Johnson said: “Pontefract museum is very interested and could do with some highlights and this would definitely be one because Pontefract’s history is so often undervalued.”

Coroner David Hinchliff declared the find as treasure under the Treasure Act 1996 and the council will now wait for a valuation.

Lisa Dodd, Wakefield Council’s service director for sport and culture, said: “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.”