In July 2009, Terry Herbert of the Bloxwich Metal Detection and Research Club picked up a signal with his metal detector; the signal for what we now know to be Staffordshire’s treasure. The discovery of nearly 4,600 pieces of gold and silver was the greatest Anglo-Saxon gold and silver treasure ever discovered. .
Without the army of dedicated amateurs who roam the fields of the UK, much of our history would remain secret, buried and forgotten beneath our feet. Since the success of the BBC’s comedy Detectorists, more people than ever have turned to metal detection.
If a find can be considered treasure, a Discovery Liaison Officer (FLO) must be notified within 14 days so that it can be decided whether the objects are important enough to belong to a museum. With thousands of years of history just inches below the topsoil, the hobby allows people to delve into the rich history of the UK and uncover stories that would otherwise remain buried. In many cases, the researcher is the first person to handle an object since it was abandoned thousands of years ago.
“I learned a lot from it. Holding the physical object in your hand brings the story to a different perspective for me. It’s much better to hold it and look at it than to see it in a book. This is what I really like. It’s physically there in front of you, you can see and feel the story. We haven’t touched it for two or three hundred years, even a thousand years. You are the first person to hold it since and it’s great. Many of the discoveries that have been found through metal detection have led to a change in history. We found pieces that we didn’t know existed before.
“If you ask for 25, you might get one,” says Bill, a member of the group. Barclays says: “I have a keen interest in history, I think it’s good to know what’s buried under your land. If we don’t let metal detectors come and take a look, we’ll never know.
“I love history. At school, I’ve always been interested, but I’ve learned more about history since I started doing metal detecting. You find something and you go home and you are looking for it. Each time you know a little more. I know more about kings and queens than when I was in school. It is a fantastic hobby – it feels good to ‘be in the great outdoors with like-minded people and you can find anything. You might find something like a Roman coin. If you look they are probably only worth around £ 10. that for you, you find something and hold something and you’re the first person to hold it since the person who dropped it 2000 years ago. It’s little things like that that touch you. – Chris Blanc
Detection offers people of all generations a way to spend time outdoors in the countryside. With “gatherings” held all over the country, he can be as lonely or as sociable as the detective chooses to be.
“I started to detect in the 70s / 80s when the machines were not good. It’s nice to go out and laugh and joke, ”says Bill.
Tracy Bond has been detecting for a little over a year and a half. Each detective has their own list of items they would like to find.
Mick Poole detects in a field that contains the remains of a crumbling building. Along with his metal detector, he uses his historical knowledge of the area and the visible topography of the terrain to make an educated guess about which parts of the landscape to explore first.
“We have what could be the remains of a medieval building, so there must have been a lot of activity here. There is a Roman history: Roman artefacts were found by metal detectors in the area. This is what we are waiting for today. If you look up the hill we are at a great vantage point for a camp, villa or large mansion. People were buying and selling, they were playing. They had cockfights. He probably fell in the dark because they only had candlelight: if they had let him down, he would have stayed there.“
Adrian Harris walks through the fields near Ledbury, Herefordshire. He says he got into the hobby by watching the Time Team TV show.
“Most metal detectors are just amateurs. Most like history. It’s not the dollar value – you don’t go into this thinking thinking you’re going to be rich. It’s just to uncover the story beneath your feet. If you strike a coin, we’ll bring the landowner here right away, then we’ll contact the liaison and they’ll bring in an archaeologist. It could be that the crucial pot containing the coins is more important than the parts themselves. They want to know the story so – why was he buried, was he there Roman activity here, what is she doing buried here. Then the museum gets involved. It’s not like you find a bunch of coins, put them in your pocket and go. You have to do it right.
Howard – “This one is a token of love, they used to fold the edges and give it to a girl. Maybe she threw it away or kept it – that’s why they’re called love tokens.“ Antony Blakemmore – “I couldn’t believe it, I almost passed out. I pulled it out of the hole and was just running through the fields. My friends came over and said it was actually gold. I found a gold cross but it is the only gold coin I have found so far. This is after three years of detection. I watch it every two days. I take it out, I smell and I look and I hope that one day I can find another one.“