The September 2016 Searcher Magazine featured my story about Nettie Edmondson, a very successful detectorist who’s found gold in every year of the ( twelve? ) in which she has been detecting.
I consider that the story I am about to relate – and the age of the subject – bears some relationship and will be an inspiration to readers both male and female. However, when I asked the question, albeit hesitantly, she seemed shocked and told me in no uncertain terms that nobody knows her age. I tried to retrieve the situation by saying that she didn’t look a day over 39, but it sounded lame. By mutual consent we agreed on the term ‘mature’.
I hope that I am forgiven then, for choosing as the title of this piece, The Golden Girl, a phrase universally used and understood to describe a female who is not only successful, but greatly admired. That succinctly sums up Nettie! It also has some relevance to the fact that in twelve years of detecting, she has found gold every year.
Nettie – The Early Years
All her life Nettie has collected minerals and rocks. She tells me that she has the ‘patience of a saint’ (I can vouch for that), loves the outdoors and has an interest in history.
When she saw a detectorist digging in a field she thought she’d like to ‘have a go at that’. At the time she worked for Bedfordshire police in one of those stressful jobs where after work you need to go home and ‘unwind’. She talked with the guy – who must have been a good ambassador for the hobby; she was enthused, decided to buy a detector and chose a Minelab because, ‘that’s what he was using’. The hobby seemed to encompass all those qualities in life she was looking for.
Finding land on which to search wasn’t a problem. Her husband was the local ‘Bobby’ who knew all the farmers in the immediate vicinity … and that was useful. She was able to get permissions – and not too far away.
For the first six months or so she went out on her own, just ‘playing’ and familiarising herself with the machine, but needed more. St Neots & District Artefacts Club (SNADAC), founded in 1978 and one of the oldest clubs in the area, satisfied that need. She joined them and met all ‘the lovely people with a mine of knowledge.’ She told me that their encouragement and helpfulness helped her move on and become even more interested in the hobby.
A Jaw-Dropping Moment
One day, when proceeding along a road in Northamptonshire, she saw many parked cars and detectorists searching in the fields. A Central Searchers dig was in progress. She parked up, approached the organisers, Gill and Richard Evans, and asked if she could join. That was the start of a meaningful relationship.
Five or six years ago the Minelab was replaced with another machine, which has been respectfully christened, ‘Mr. Deus’. Many significant finds were unearthed, including gold coins and artefacts, and she counts herself as ‘lucky’. Her latest discovery was quite special.
It wasn’t a typical detecting day when Nettie had a ‘jaw-dropping’ moment when least expecting it. She wasn’t even dressed for the occasion. It happened like this …
Her friend had acquired a strip of land at the bottom of her garden and intended planting fruit trees. When visiting, Nettie noticed that the strip had been prepared and levelled ready for planting. The plot had been pasture for as long as anybody could remember. “Ooh, can I run my detector over that?” Permission was granted.
Nettie reports that within five minutes there was, “a pure ping from Mr. Deus … and I dug!’ What she eventually saw was the raw glint of gold. When the soil was brushed away, a finger ring with inscribed writing was revealed. “I had just dug the find of a lifetime and flopped down staring at the exquisite object. I was in genuine shock. My friend came down to see if I was okay!”
The ring was recorded with the relevant authorities, and the local FLO informed. The UKDFD basically said that it was probably a gold wedding ring ‘of the medieval period’. Except for the two Roman ‘M’s, you will notice that there are religious Gothic style inscriptions (Lombardic) on both the inner and outer diameters.
THE INNER is inscribed +GESPAR:MELCHIOR:BATIZAR the names of the Magi (or Three Wise Men) who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2; 1-12). Their names are variously spelled, the most usual modern forms probably being Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar respectively.
THE OUTER diameter is inscribed +AVE·MARIA·GRACIA·PLE· a slightly abbreviated Latin form of Hail Mary, Full of Grace.
The ring is now ( two years ago ) wending its way through the Treasure Act. Nettie regrets that it isn’t still with her but says, rather philosophically, ‘Gone from me, but nobody can take away the fact that I had saved this lovely thing plus that moment of realisation when I gazed down and realised I had found that something a bit special’. What was the result Nettie?
Like many others I wanted to know how our Golden Girl found so much wonderful stuff, so I asked. She said that she didn’t really understand it herself, couldn’t put it into words, and didn’t think she was that special, but repeated that she thought it was down to luck.
When I persisted I learnt that when Nettie enters a field, she will just stand and look ‘for a suitable’ area in which to search. Sounds to me like she had an innate ability to ‘read’ the land. If there are several fields to detect, she will choose only one – no running about, especially if she finds something. Her technique with the coil is slow, low and very thorough. “Perseverance and patience pays off,” she assured me. And it works! What follows is just a very small selection of Nettie’s finds.
Nettie’s gold stater of Tasciovanus (50850 on the UKDFD) is said by Spink to be based on the Whaddon Chase stater (Coins of England 2014), and was found on land near to her home.
What I found interesting was that the coin is often referred to as the ‘Hidden Faces’ stater. Evidently, in many examples of Celtic art, a face is hidden in what is otherwise an abstract pattern. The pair of hidden faces can be seen in the crossed Apollo wreath, made up of a pair of pellet-in-ring motifs for the eyes, a pellet for the nose, and a small crescent for the mouth. Many numismatists believe that the design of the ‘Hidden Faces’ stater is one of the loveliest examples of Celtic decorative art within the British series.
Tasciovanus was the king of the Britons in the South East and leader of the Catulvellauni (Celts). Around 20BC he minted gold, silver and copper coins and was the first king to issue inscribed Celtic coins marked with the name of Verulamium (Roman city of St Albans). His tribe was originally centred there.
As usual, most letters of the reverse inscription, an in Nettie’s example are off the flan, but the bases of the first five are just discernible, starting close to the bottom of the horse’s tail and ending at the bucranium.
Awaiting validation on the PAS database is a ‘Gallo-Belgic E’ type stater BH-2F4C36 and BH-B5B427, the next a quarter stater of Tasciovanus.
A Rare Roman Coin
The gold 1½ scripulum (nine-siliquae) coin of Constantius II, struck at Arles, AD 355-360 is both an extremely rare coin and a bit of an enigma. Listed as R5 in RIC and recorded as 46255 on the UKDFD.
This denomination had been introduced as part of Constantine’s reform of the gold coinage, but why such an inconvenient fraction should have been issued as a coin is hard to explain. It appears only to have been struck on special occasions and perhaps filled some ceremonial role. In 383 AD Theodosius I replaced the 1½ scripulum with a slightly lighter coin, the tremissis, which was valued at one-third of a solidus, or 8 siliquae.
Reverse description: Victory seated right on cuirass, holding a shield on which she inscribes VOT/XXXX; before her stands a small genius supporting the shield. Reverse legend: VICTORIA AVGVSTORVM:KONSA/ in exergue.
Women can do anything …
On the subject of females and detecting, Nettie said that women could do anything if only they set their minds to it. When starting in the hobby, she was often the only woman on the field, but was pleased to note that now there are many more. One piece of advice for other detecting damsels, “Don’t spend time at the chuck wagon gossiping and drinking gallons of tea!”
Despite ‘green’ waste and night hawking she remains optimistic about the future of the hobby. “Each day we are improving our relationships with archaeologists. We are not all that bad as many have realised – and detectors are bound to get better!”
Nettie says, “I have found gold coins that stun with their beauty, leave you in awe when you realise their age, and fascinate with the history that surrounds them. As much as I am always happy to find a hammered or gold coin, I do like artefacts. They are so much more personal, don’t you think!”
I end by sharing some of those artefacts. First is a uniface heraldic copper-alloy roundel ( left ) dating to the period of Edward III. The front face bears the arms of Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III, who was married in 1329 and died in 1369.
The arms of Philippa – as a queen consort – are those of her husband (i.e. England), Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale Or, quartered with those of her father (i.e. Hainault), Quarterly, I and IV Or a lion rampant Sable, armed and langued Gules; II and III Or a lion rampant Gules, armed and langued Azure.
The fact that the arms of England on the roundel are those used prior to Edward III’s claim to the French throne (at which time he quartered the lions of England with the fleurs-de-lis of France) would indicate that the roundel was made before circa 1340. The exact use of the roundel is uncertain, but a mount of some sort seems most likely.
Another favourite find is a sword-belt fitting of the post medieval period found in Cambridgeshire, consisting of the male element of a two-part toggle clasp. The fitting comprises an openwork body with an integral extension, which has a slightly protruding engagement lug.
Two weeks later when searching in the same field, Nettie found the matching female element. From the pictures you can see how they engage. Remarkable!
If you happen to see Annette out detecting one day, take the time to say hello … but don’t mention her age! Oh … and call her ‘Nettie’, for that’s what she prefers. I happened to check out the name and found it most appropriate. ‘Annette is the best friend you will ever have. She’s a great listener and a person who can make you laugh. She is easy-going and patient. If you know her you’ll be better off for it …’
Golden Girl Nettie does it again – November 2016
Two months later Nettie found another magnificent gold posey ring, this time with with the inscription MY HART AND I UNTELL I DIE.
If ever the Olympic committee introduces a detecting event, we can rely on Nettie to bring home the gold medals! She is a good ambassador for both women detectorists and the hobby in general . . . or should that be ‘detectorista?’
Nettie promised me that when she found gold again, I would be the first to be informed. I waited patiently and was beginning to give up hope … and then got a call in October 2017 saying that she had found her seventh Celtic gold stater, appropriately named Mr. Grumpy after the design on the obverse of the Trinovantes – Dubnovellaunus example she had unearthed. See what you think.
I wanted to check some detail with Nettie and, through the marvels of modern technology, made contact with her in the middle of a field, searching for more gold no doubt!
Hello John, As usual I keep you waiting but as you are the first person I thought of when this little beauty came up today, I am smiling. I hope you are smiling too and that you are on the way up. Nettie XX
Last Sunday – 7th July – Nettie maintained her record by uncovering this magnificent coin . . .
Dear JohnReading your blog I cannot believe how lucky I have been. I can remember every find spot . . . nice to relive some of those moments. You could bring it right up to date with last Sundays 1/2 Sovereign keeping the record going. Nettie
I thank Nettie for her co-operation in my writing of this article, Michael Crook, and the PAS for pictures and also the UKDFD for pictures and extra information on some of the coins and artefacts.