North-east schoolboy finds ancient coin at Castle Fraser dig

Sonny Crighton with the half sixpence found at Castle Fraser

A coin dating back to the construction of a historic North-east castle has been discovered.

The 16th-century find was unearthed at Castle Fraser, near Inverurie, by a nine-year-old taking part in an archaeological dig, run by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

The Elizabeth I sixpence dates to 1572 and it is the first artefact from that time backing up when construction started on the five-storey Z-plan castle.

Archaelogist Dr Daniel Rhodes

Archaeologist Dr Daniel Rhodes said the currency was the star find of the digs.

Dr Rhodes, who works for NTS, led the work – with young and old alike getting involved.

He said: “What happened was we got repairs done to the castle drive earlier this year, which was a routine repair, and when it was dug up we found this buried wall that wasn’t on any of the plans.

“We decided that we would do a dig later in the year and we offered everyone the chance to come out and help us be an archaeologist for a day.”


The coin found at the Castle Fraser dig

He added it was the first “hard evidence” from the time period the castle was constructed in had been found.

He said: “It is an Elizabeth I sixpence that dates back to 1572 and we can tell this from the coin itself.

“There is a picture of the Queen’s head on one side and it says sixpence on it. It was actually in use, the coin, because you can see it has actually been broken.

“This is how coins worked back then. For example if you owed someone threepence you would break off half of the sixpence and give it to them.”

More than 250 people took part in the archaeological digs that took place at the castle but it was nine-year-old Sonny Crighton, from Banchory, who made the discovery.

He said: “I first thought it was a bit of glass then copper because it was covered in dirt.

“I took it over to Daniel, the archaeologist, and he cleaned and showed me what it was. I was really surprised and happy.”

The coin is set to be sent to specialists in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland.

It is there experts will decide how to best take care of the coin.

Dr Rhodes added: “We had so many people take part in the digs, from youngsters who were a couple of years old to people in their 70s.

“It was great to see everyone get involved and by doing the digs we can unearth more history and knowledge about the area and the castle at the time.

“Once it is decided what is best to do with the coin it should come back to Aberdeenshire and be displayed somewhere near the castle.

“It would be great if there could be an exhibition of some sorts with the coin being part of the show.

“We also found some bits of pottery but the coin was definitely the major find of the dig.”

NTS estimates that the core of the castle possibly dates back to the 1450s.

But later additions were made to the building as it developed into a huge fortified structure, eventually creating one of the largest tower houses in the country.

It is thought that the then Laird Michael Fraser had started major upgrade work in the 1570s – tying in to the date of the sixpence.

The building was home to the Fraser family for more than 400 years and is still filled with family portraits, ornaments and mementos.