COINS from a mysterious hoard of treasure discovered on a North-East battlefield are to go under the hammer.

The 14th Century coins were hidden in a pottery jug and buried beneath tree roots in Durham more than 600 years ago, but were discovered in Victorian times by a young man out looking for birds’ nests.

Nobody knows the whereabouts of most of the 280 coins unearthed in the spring of 1889, but 14, thought to have been given to the finder as a reward and passed down through his family, are to be auctioned in London later this month.

The sale at Dix Noonan Webb on March 21 will be the first time any coins from the Nevilles Cross Hoard have gone up for auction.

Experts from the auction house have investigated the coins’ history after the seller told them he had bought them two years ago from an elderly gentleman who claimed they had been passed down through his wife’s family from the original finder, a young man named Mr Markey.

One day while out looking for birds’ nests near the River Browney, at Nevilles Cross, Mr Markey found a broken pottery jug in the roots of a tree crammed with 280 coins.

The silver coins had been hidden at Nevilles Cross by their Medieval owner in the late 1370s, about 30 years after the famous battle between England and Scotland on the site.

Markey took some of the coins to a Durham silversmith who told him what they were and the young man sold most to two Durham antiquarians, Matthew Fowler and George Neasham, who catalogued the find.

It is believed that Markey kept a handful for himself: seven Scottish groats from the reign of David II; four English groats from the reign of Edward III, two other Scottish coins and one minted in Arnhem in the present-day Netherlands.

The whereabouts of the rest of the Nevilles Cross hoard is unknown.

Christopher Webb, head of the coins department at Dix Noonan Webb, said: “This story is a series of fascinating mysteries.

“We shall never know why the owner of some 280 coins, many of them from Scotland, decided to bury them in a jug under a tree in north-eastern England in the late 14th Century.

“We also know nothing about young Mr Markey – perhaps someone in the Durham area will be able to tell us more about him.

“These particular coins were completely unknown until the elderly gentleman sold them to

our vendor and so it is a very special event for us to be offering for sale previously

unrecorded pieces from a significant hoard that was researched by Sir John Evans shortly

after it was found in 1889.”

The 14 coins will be auctioned separately, with estimates ranging up from £100 to £400 per coin.