METAL detecting enthusiast Ronald Lees was “ecstatic” when he unearthed the find of a lifetime in a field at Peover Superior.

The 62-year-old initially found dozens of Roman coins, which became a hoard of almost 7,800 after archaeologists helped reveal the full extent of the amazing discovery.

The bronze coins were produced in the third century, and the majority were found in a pot a few inches under the ground.

Mr Lees, from Altrincham, discovered the coins when he and friend Rick Parker made their fifth trawl of a field on a cold, wet winter’s day in January 2015.

At an inquest into the find at Macclesfield Town Hall on Wednesday, Alan Moore, deputy coroner for Cheshire, declared the coin hoard to be treasure.

Museums can express an interest in a find if it’s treasure, and if a museum wants the treasure the Treasure Valuation Committee will decide how much it is worth and how much will go to anyone entitled to a share of the find.

Mr Moore told Mr Lees at the inquest: “It is an absolutely amazing find, and it must have made your day. I wish you every luck in your metal detecting in the future.”

Mr Moore read out a report by Richard Abdy from the British Museum.

In his report Mr Abdy said the coins date from AD 251 to 274, and are similar to the many Romano-British coin hoards buried in the aftermath of the breakaway Gallic Empire.

The empire was established in AD 260, he said, had held dominion over Britain and was reconquered by the legitimate ‘central’ Empire under Aurelian in AD 274.

The coins include ones from the earliest years of Aurelian’s reign, and the latest are those of Tetricus I, AD 271-4 and his young son Tetricus II, the last of the Gallic Emperors.

The greatest number, 1,902, are from the reign of Tetricus I, with 745 from his son’s reign.

There are 1,670 coins from the reign of Victorinus, AD 269-71, 899 from Gallienus’ reign, AD 260-8, 599 from the reign of Claudius II, AD 268-70, and 354 from Posthumus’ reign, AD 260-9.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Lees said he took up metal detecting again three years ago after being interested in it in his 20s.

“We went to the field because of the history of the place, and I thought there could be a good chance of finding jewellery or coins,” he said.

“I found nails, ring pulls and wire on the day, and then started moving towards a tree and got a signal. I dug out a coin a few inches down and showed it to Rick, who agreed it was Roman.

“As I walked away from the tree I got four to five more signals, and after digging found coins scattered around.

“I was thinking ‘there’s got to be something here’, and then the detector signal went into overload, which happens when it hits something big.

“I started scraping with a trowel, and a coin flipped up, followed by another and another – they were just coming out of the ground.

“I was soaking wet and freezing cold, but all of a sudden nothing else mattered – I was ecstatic.

“The last person who held the coins could have been a Roman Emperor, a gladiator or a serf.

“When I found between 20 and 30 I realised it was a hoard, and I put them back in the hole and covered them with soil because it’s best left to the archaeologists.”

Mr Lees called the Finds Liaison Officer, who visited the site the next day with Mr Lees and archaeologists, and the team unearthed a pot containing thousands of coins.

“I knew there were more coins, but didn’t think there would be between 7,000 and 8,000,” added Mr Lees.

“The coins are in very good condition, and I have been told they may have been buried by the Roman army in retreat with the aim of coming back to get them.”