by Nigel Swift
A second series of Britain’s Secret Treasures is coming soon. Regtons, Britain’s biggest metal detector retailer, told us the first series caused a boom in sales, especially of starter machines. Others took careful note too it seems. Here’s a picture we took yesterday in a Midlands branch of a nationwide chain of 200 electrical superstores.
A fully functioning entry-level metal detector for £19.99! Very basic, certainly, but perfectly able to let someone find, remove and tell no-one about every single metal artefact in the top two or three inches of every field in Britain. And here’s the best bit – if you order one on line they’ll deliver it to your door within 90 minutes! Or indeed, within 90 minutes of the first programme starting. Or of the start of the first “half-hour, peak-time free advert” as their marketing department might say.
It’s not unreasonable to think they’re aiming to sell at least 50 units in each shop to make it worthwhile (and no doubt better models once the bug has bitten – they have a whole range). That would suggest they alone are hoping to create 10,000 new metal detectorists in the next few months. Once ITV and the Portable Antiquities Scheme have jubilated for a few nights about the gold that’s waiting in the fields they may well achieve their aim. People might ask how many of those 10,000 newbies (and the many tens of thousands to be created by other retailers) will heed any ditchwater-dull “best practice” messages that ITV may reluctantly allow to be inserted between the silver oohs and golden aahs in the programmes? Not many I should imagine. After the last series there was a huge boom in detector sales but not a commensurate one in recording. Seriously, what does that tell you?
This stuff only happens in Bonkers Britain, remember, and professionals abroad tend to look on with horror, not admiration. As my French archaeologist friend says: “La Grande-Bretagne est irresponsable avec son patrimoine, n’est-ce pas?” Yes Philippe, Britain IS irresponsible with its heritage and some might think the problem isn’t just irresponsible detectorists but also grossly irresponsible archaeologists, but as a mere amateur I couldn’t possibly comment.