A History of Sark in Six Objects

Base Silver 'Stater'

silver stater

This recently excavated coin represents the nearest thing to a 'local' currency in Guernsey and Sark in the first century BC, though it was manufactured in the region of Bayeux, principal city of the Baiocasses (one of the Celtica tribes) in Normandy. The reverse shows reined horse, stylised in segments so characteristic of the Celtic tribes, galloping to the right. Roman and 'Celtic' coins have been found hoarded on the Atlantic coast, in Jersey and in Sark ( the 'Sark Hoard' of ornamental Dacian silver and some Gaulish coins in an urn was unearthed in 1719 but disappeared soon afterwards). Refugees from Caesar's Gallic Wars in mid-first century BC and Roman soldiers on the move along a major trade route between the Cotentin and southern Britain would have found Sark an amenable sanctuary for their portable wealth.

Copper Alloy Armlet

copper armlet

The armlet was found by chance. The solid casting and incised repeat pattern are typical of the 'Ornamental Horizon' of the mid-Bronze Age. Its date c.1300 links it to Breton-style bronze axeheads found nearby on an excavated site occupied around this time. Copper bearing lodes in Sark's cliffs may have interested prehistoric settlers, but it is unlikely there were fuel resources for primary extraction. Most of the bronze cast at this period was recycled metal, so copper ingots found recently in Sark may well have been cast on the island using imported scrap metal. As a fertile and defensible island refuge lying conveniently on a major trading route between Brittany, Normandy and southern England, Sark was home to a wealth-storing, sophisticated people, four millennia ago.

German Imperial Navy Dagger from WWII

Dagger

This ceremonial dagger has an elaborately etched blade, gold-plated guard and scabbard; its insignia include the imperial eagle and swastika. It was handed to Major John Clement, officer in charge of a party from Force 135, sent on 17th May 1945 to remove the German garrison of 270 men on Sark. The Occupation had begun on 3rd July 1940. The dagger's Nazi owner, Allest Obernaur, Naval Controller of Food, was particularly disliked by the Sarkese after years of hunger. Major Clement received the token of surrender at La Seigneurie, home of Sibyl Hathaway, Dame de Sercq. On 10th May 1985, 40th anniversary of Sark's official Liberation, he presented it to Seigneur Michael Beaumont, Dame Sibyl's grandson.

Serpentine Whorl

Serpentine whorl

In the 19th century many stone whorls were removed from Sark. More than a dozen cromlechs were broken up to provide boundary stones and farm buildings, and hundreds of small artefacts were dispersed. The whimsical Jersey name rouettes des faitaux associates these 'fairy cartwheels' with the inexplicable landscape of megaliths. Some of the Sark whorls may have had use as weights for drop spindles. This example, found recently at an Iron Age site, is highly polished and decoratively incised, so it was probably worn as a pendant. Green Serpentine is plentiful in Sark; its softness meant the stone could be easily rubbed or drilled. Sark's hard black dolerite was exported as high-quality axes and hammers in Neolithic times. Sark's soft Serpentine encouraged a specialised technology of stone-drilling in the Iron Age.

Sluice Control Valve

Sluice control

From 1836 to 1845 Sark's landscape was transformed by Sark Mining Company. Cornish mining technology was renowned from Peru to Southern Australia and it was Cornish mining engineers who were imported to work Sark's copper, lead and silver deposits. Steam engines pumped water up from the shafts but it was the water, channelled in wooden tubs ('launders') running downhill to the sea at Port Gorey, that powered much of the ore processing. The sluice rod mechanism extended through the wall of the dressing floor pond, where the metal ore was separated. Turning the butterfly nuts pushed or pulled a tapered wooden bung inside the pond and controlled the outflow of water. The valve survived under 3 feet of earth: like other features of Sark's mines (including a 'mellior stone' - bearing-stone for a capstan pit) it is unique and predates most of what survives in Cornwall's historic mining area.

Spanish Silver Coin

Silver coin

This stamped coin, issued by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, was minted in Seville at around the time of Columbus and found in Sark in 2005. The good quality of its silver made Spanish coinage desirable among traders in western Europe, and may account for this coin's survival in damp pasture on manorial land in Sark. Reáls were legal currency in England during the reign of Queen Mary, but were prohibited by Elizabeth I in 1561. Channel Islanders used several different currencies, mostly French in origin. The Sark half reál was found lying close to a silver douzain of Charles IX of France from c.1570. Sark was a stopping place for pirates in the early 16th century. It was occupied by French soldiers 1549-53 and again in 1560-62, before being permanently settled for the English Crown by Jerseyman Helier De Carteret in 1562.