The Treasure Troves of Laman Street

We recently unearthed a couple of interesting newsclippings relating to finds of treasure troves in Laman Street Newcastle.

The first occurred on Friday 13th April 1877, when a cache of over 60-70 silver and 400-500 copper coins was found in a well in Laman Street. Dating from 1750s to around the 1820s. The site later became known as the Hidden Treasure Hotel (it is now a block of terraces on the corner of John and Laman Streets, Newcastle).

The second find occurred on Saturday the 7th June 1879 (reported in the Herald on the 10th June) by workmen employed for a Mr Cropley “in making Laman Street” and consisted of a quantity of “very old and valuable coins”.

The clue as to what the original hoard (1877) was doing there may be in the report of some of the silver coins being found in a “wooden box about four inches long, carved to represent a shoe”. Could this have been part of those folk traditions of placing shoes, cats, ritual objects at the cardinal points of building foundations? Intriguing nonetheless.

Please find the two clipping scanned and transcribed below.

Great Find of Copper and Silver Coins Newcastle – SA Register 23 April 1877 p.6

Great Find of Copper and Silver Coins Newcastle
South Australian Register 23 April 1877 p.6
Transcribed by Gionni Di Gravio

GREAT FIND OF COPPER AND SILVER COINS AT NEWCASTLE – On Friday, April 13, report reached us (Newcastle Pilot) that a tresure trove in the shape of gold, silver and copper coins had been happened upon in a well at Cook’s Hill, between Darby and Blane streets. The lucky finder was Mr. Peter Street, builder, of Laman Street. Between his house and the rear wall of the hotel he yesterday commenced to sink a well where the coins were found. Mr. Smith states that the “find” had been met with with eighteen inches from the surface. Some copper coins were first thrown up, a few at a time, by the spade, but as the excavation went on the coins became more plentiful, and silver showed. Then careful search was made, and there was found in all between 400 and 500 copper and some 60 or 70 silver coins. The copper and silver had evidently been wrapped up separately in some textile fabric, of which remains were distinguishable. The smaller silver coins were enclosed in what had been originally a wooden box about four inches long, carved to represent a shoe. There were also found a couple of clay marbles, and brass ramrod receiver of an old fashioned pistol. When brought forward the collection looked large indeed. The copper coins proved to be all British currency struck the latter end of the last and commencement of the present century, pennies of 1797 predominating, and the halfpence and farthings bearing the date 1825. The emblems on many are as sharply defined as when issued from the Mint, and they do not appear to have been much in circulation; whereas the pennies are more or less worn. The silver coins comprise four entire Spanish dollars in original form, and 11 with a hole about the size of a sixpence stamped out of the centre; whilst on the face of the coin, but close to the edge of the paerture, “New South Wales” is in most instances distinctly visible. The latter are of the date 1804. The greater number of the silver coins appear to be fractional parts of the Spanish dollar, the date of one piece being 1751. A few coins with the emblems almost effaced, are as small as a threepenny piece English, but worn very thin. Three English shillings of 1817 and 1820, and some Indian coins are included, and there are about a dozen silver pieces the size of a sixpence, but much thicker. These letter also were once the special currency of the colony, and dated 1817 in a circle near the edge, and on the obverse “fifteen pence” in lettering. The little wooden shoe is half rotted away, and the pistol mount simply stained with verdigris. Mr. John Bingle, the chronicler of Newcastle, expressed opinion that the coins had probably been hidden near fifty years ago. The presence of such a variety of silver coins he explained by the fact that in the early days of the colony British silver currency was so scarce that any description of silver coin, from the Spanish dollar downwards, was counted current, and had a recognised colonial value. The pieced or “holey” dollars and the fifteenpenny pieces Mr. Bingle showned to have had connection with one another. The Governor of the day devised the expedient of altering the dollars so that their currency should be peculiar to the colony.

Treasure Trove – Newcastle Morning Herald 10 June 1879 page 2

Treasure Trove
From: Newcastle Morning Herald 10 June 1879 page 2
Transcribed by Gionni Di Gravio

Our readers will remember that some time ago some men, while digging for the foundations of the building now known as the Hidden Treasure Hotel, situated in Laman Street, discovered a number of old and rare coins. Another similar find has to be recorded. The workmen employed by Mr. Cropley in making Laman-street on Saturday morning alighted upon a tin pot containing coins of a very old date, some of which are of considerable value.

4 thoughts on “The Treasure Troves of Laman Street

  1. Could there be any connection between the treasure found in Laman St. so long ago and recent events in that street? Are some councillors hoping to find more treasure when the street is dug up? Is this the real reason as to why the figs had to go?
    Hope to see some of you in Laman St, at the Art Gallery, for the unveiling of the Wallis Album on Monday. It certainly is treasure that was ‘buried’ for a very long time until it turned up at auction last year.

  2. Thankyou for posting this wonderful report. I live in the Terraces of the old Hidden Treasure Hotel. So lovely to know the history. I love living here even more. And yes NCC probably does have an agenda to find more treasure…

Leave a Reply