English Family Finds More Than a Thousand 17th-Century Coins During Home Renovation

The hoard, which collectively sold for $75,000, was likely buried during the First English Civil War

Charles I gold "unite" crown coin
A "Charles I gold unite crown coin" generated the most money at the auction, collecting £5,000 (about $6,250). Duke's Auctioneers

Anyone familiar with the trials of home renovation knows it’s a smart choice to make room in the budget for potential surprises. Oftentimes, these complications are structural or electrical issues. Yet, in an unexpected twist, one family remodeling their home in England stumbled upon a windfall—more than 1,000 17th-century gold and silver coins hidden beneath their floors.

This week, Duke’s Auctioneers in Dorchester auctioned the family’s find for a total of £60,740 (about $75,900), nearly doubling the sale estimate of £35,000.

Betty and Robert Fooks originally found the coins at their cottage at South Poorton Farm in West Dorset in 2019. Betty was with her children, while her husband, Robert, was digging up their kitchen floor with a pick ax.

“It is a 400-year-old house so there was lots of work to do,” Betty tells the Guardian’s Steven Morris. “We were taking all the floors and ceilings out and took it back to its stone walls. We decided to lower the ground floor to give us more ceiling height.”

Robert had dug through about two feet of concrete, flagstone and dirt when he saw a broken glazed pottery bowl. Inside were the 400-year-old coins.

“He called to say they’ve found something,” Betty adds. “If we hadn’t lowered the floor, they would still be hidden there. I presume the person intended to retrieve them but never got the chance.”

After the family’s discovery, Robert placed the coins into a bucket and the couple reported the event to a local finds liaison officer, per the Guardian. The officer then notified the British Museum and sent the coins to experts there, who could clean and identify them.

Smashed glazed pottery bowl
The British family found the Poorton Coin Hoard in a glazed pottery bowl that was either shattered during digging or prior to the find. Duke's Auctioneers

Experts believe that the coins were hidden during the First English Civil War, which began in 1642 and ended in 1646. The war broke out when supporters of Parliament fought against the English monarch, King Charles I, fearing the crown had too much power. King Charles was executed at the end of the war, marking a temporary overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic led by Parliament.

Waseem Ahmed, a doctoral student of history at University College London, tells Live Science’s Hannah Kate Simon that Dorset was a center of activity for troop movements during the English Civil War. The person who hid the coins likely buried them out of fear that someone would take them.

"If you were a royalist or suspected royalist, you could have your estates sequestrated [seized] by the Parliamentary side and vice versa," says Ahmed, who was not involved with the hoard’s discovery, per Live Science.

The coins, dubbed the Poorton Coin Hoard, range from sixpences, to silver half crowns, to gold "unite" coins worth 20 shillings. They feature the faces of different British monarchs who ruled from 1547 to 1649, including Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Mary and King Charles I.

Duke's did not auction the coins as one big collection. Instead, they were sold individually or in smaller groups with many items fetching higher prices than expected. A gold coin with the face of Charles I generated the most money, collecting £5,000 (about $6,250).

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.