An archaeological fieldworker in eastern Newfoundland has uncovered what could potentially be the oldest English coin ever found in Canada, according to The Canadian Press.
The silver coin, known as a Henry VII ‘half groat’ or twopenny piece, is believed to have been minted in Canterbury, England, between 1493 and 1499, making it over five centuries old. .
William Gilbert, the head archaeologist and supervisor at the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site, recounted that one of his colleagues unearthed this ancient coin in September. This artifact is more than a century older than the Cupids Cove settlement itself, which was founded in 1610. “It’s important because it sparks your imagination,” Gilbert remarked, pondering the coin’s journey through time. “You just have to wonder when you look at this thing: how many hands did it pass through?”
The coin’s significance is not just its age but the history it represents. The Henry VII ‘half groat’ features a stylized portrait of King Henry VII and a Latin inscription that reads, “Henry, by the grace of God, King of England and France.” On the reverse side, there is a cross and the king’s motto, also in Latin: “I have made God my helper.”
This intriguing artifact was discovered buried under 20 centimeters of soil near the northeast corner of an excavation site, just beyond the remnants of what was once a wooden palisade. Gilbert described the scene as a “Wild West fort arrangement.”
Cupids Cove, settled by Bristol, England, merchant John Guy, holds the distinction of being the site of the oldest English settlement in Canada. While Jamestown, Virginia, was settled by the English in 1607, Cupids predates it, with Guy and a small group of colonists establishing structures, including Canada’s first sawmill and brewery, by 1613.
Gilbert’s discovery of the former plantation in 1995 led to its declaration as a historic site in May 2011. Since then, over 150,000 artifacts have been excavated from the site, which now houses an interactive museum known as the Cupids Legacy Centre. This historic site is situated on the west side of Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, approximately an hour’s drive west of St. John’s.
Steve Crocker, the province’s tourism minister, marveled at the coin’s historical significance. He stated, “It is incredible to imagine that this coin was minted in England and was lost in Cupids over a hundred years later. It links the story of the early European exploration in the province and the start of English settlement.”
This isn’t the first significant coin discovery in Cupids Cove. In 2001, an Elizabethan coin, dating back to 1560-1561, was found at the same site, at the time considered the oldest English coin ever found in Canada. Now, with the Henry VII ‘half groat,’ the history of early English exploration and settlement in Canada is becoming richer and more complex.