THE finders of a huge haul of rare silver coins in a North Yorkshire field have described the discovery as like “winning the lottery.”

The find, known as the Knaresborough Area Hoard, was the centre of a hearing in Harrogate yesterday which saw the Norman relics officially declared as treasure.

The find, estimated to be worth about £40,000, was discovered by the West Riding Detector Group in a secret location, between April 2008 and April 2009. It is the largest haul of its kind ever found in the north of England.

Yesterday’s inquest heard club member and coin expert, Peter Spencer, describe the haul as “very very significant.”

He said: “There were 178 coins from the reign of Henry I, most of them were pennies, but a few were cut half-pennies.

“It was tremendously exciting. Hoards of Norman coins are very far and few between. Detectors find things on a daily basis so in a year I would see maybe seven or eight individual Norman coins, but a hoard of this size is the only one that I have ever found in England which contains just one type of penny.”

Mr Spence said the coins, which date from about 1132, would today have a face value of between £7,000 and £8,000.

Jeffrey Warden, one of the finders, said: “It’s a special feeling – it’s like winning the lottery. We knew within minutes we had found something special. I have been doing this 27 years and it’s the best thing I have found.”

Following the recommendation of an expert from the British Museum, coroner Rob Turnbull classified the coins as treasure. They will now be officially valued and any museums interested in obtaining them will have six months to come up with funds. Several institutions have expressed an interest, including the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Any money would be split between the landowner and the finders.