Dear English Heritage and Council for British Archaeology,

How come you professionals haven’t told us farmers what “theft from landowners” means? Glasgow Uni says it’s failure to disclose finds but that isn’t right as most detectorists ask farmers to sign a paper allowing them to take most finds home without disclosing them. So PAS says something different, that theft is removing without permission i.e., without a Finds Agreement. But that’s wrong too. Most Agreements are far from blanket permissions to remove everything – see the NCMD Model Search Agreement. Two massive groups of finds are not pre-authorised to be taken home. So consider a rally attended by 500 people and PAS – but not the busy farmer:

Under the agreement an agreed percentage of finds worth over an agreed value is owed to the farmer. So when they have been taken home to Bootle or Brussels he gets lots of cheques in the post does he? Hardly. Also under the agreement the detectorist must follow the NCMD Code which says all “unusual” finds must be shown to the farmer. So when those have been taken home to Leeds and Lourdes they get posted back for him to see do they? Hardly. Yet if they don’t then removing them is theft through failure to disclose finds under the Glasgow definition and theft through removal without permission under PAS’s definition. In other words, theft by any definition!

It seems everyone knows what’s going on except us farmers! We assume little was found but PAS must often know better for it gets shown most finds at rallies it says – yet neither they nor EH nor CBA nor academics say a word. Lots about nighthawking but nothing about this, which is surely theft on a far grander scale? So I wonder who will speak out for farmers? PAS has the primary duty but history suggests they’ll always put detectorists’ wishes first. Which leaves CBA and EH. How about it chaps? PAS is hamstrung but are you?

You both encourage us to sign agreements so aren’t you obliged to advise us on the wording? Why not write one? (It would be a logical complement to the Guidelines for Rally Organisers you wrote.) Why shouldn’t we be the ones to specify the terms under which people search our land? The clue’s in the word: landowners. Something needs doing. Widespread metal detecting may be legal but widespread theft isn’t. There’s a thieving elephant in the room and you professionals aren’t telling us about it. How awful that an honorable profession such as yours can stand accused of such a thing and have nothing to say in its own defence. It’s time you regularised your position. Please.

Yours faithfully,

Farmer Silas Brown


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting