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The stewardship of archaeological knowledge by the Crown Estate is a sort of metaphor for British portable antiquities policy – fine talk but no effective action. You can get a license to metal detect on the foreshore in 5 seconds. It’s purely automatic. Here’s one we got earlier (it’s completely genuine) ….

crown estate

So applicants aren’t vetted at all, they are just asked to “undertake” to keep to best practice rules. And recently they’ve started allowing metal detecting on their inland holdings too, which prompts some ticklish questions:

1. Gentlemen, how come you allow metal detecting on your inland holdings when organisations with similar curatorial roles such as the NT and many landholding public bodies don’t?

2.) How did allowing a Polish detecting club to hold a rally on you land recently serve the public interest?

3.) Did you know PAS say large rallies are “a challenge” with “considerable cost implications” (which is their code for they hate them?)

4.) For the past year there have been a series of “charity” detecting events on land “opened by The Crown Estate for buried treasurebut did you know that official Advice for such things makes clear that “charitable purposes” don’t justify avoidable damage?

5.) Don’t non-Treasure items from Crown land all belong to the Crown? If so, do you have the right to share them or sell lucky-dip tickets for people to find and keep them?


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting



April 2013

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