Soon after the recent sad demise of the proprietor of the Federation of Independent Detectorists comes a worrying development. FID was already no friend of either conservation or landowners – its “Code” doesn’t require members to  report to PAS and its “finds agreement” leaves farmers wide open to abuse by crooks. But things have now got worse – Central Searchers has taken it over.

That organisation repeatedly holds rallies at venues opposed by archaeologists. In addition it maintains a notorious rule: farmers get no share of any find worth below £2,000, as secretly judged by the detectorist! Both issues, their rally venues and rules have now been hidden from public view for the declared purpose of avoiding them being repeated by “troublemakers”! The organisation isn’t small – last year 500 detectorists (i.e. 12.5% of all detectorists) paid it £30,000 to attend its Summer Rally. Unsurprisingly, it demonstrably attracts many of the worst characters in detecting – and indeed in Society. Now it controls the second largest metal detecting body in Britain with many thousands of members.

Will FID’s already awful code and finds agreement be retained (despite its controlling body being regularly in breach of both)? Or will new, worse standards be imposed? Who knows? Either way, it seems that after 16 years of expensive public outreach a major portion of “metal detecting” has fallen prey to what some might see as kakistocracy – government by the most unqualified or unprincipled citizens. It often happens in states which lack a comprehensive network of governing laws and no-one could deny that metal detecting in Britain with it’s reliance upon laissez faire and voluntary behaviour is akin to a lawless state. It’s profound food for thought for The Establishment. If Britain’s portable antiquities policy was working as originally intended or currently claimed, Central Searchers would have withered away long ago for lack of support.

Wouldn’t it.

Update 17  March 2014
It seems Central Searchers may have been holding an inappropriate rally in the face of official opposition just before the above article was published. Here’s the Comment that has been posted:
“This is awful..I found this blog after searching for info on what I observed just yesterday..15 march 2014…driving along the A14- almost exactly the same place by the looks of your photos…at least 150 people across a ridge field, all with metal detectors..I wondered if it was an organised search for something so googled it and found this article…I cannot believe that the profit of a few has overridden the good sense of so many, our heritage is truly endangered…”

What will it take for there to be official condemnation? We’ve had threats sent to us by Central Searchers rally attendees and the people who stopped on the A14  layby to photograph the previous rally had to drive away as they were approached by an aggressive group led by this fellow.

A14 gentleman

When will the authorities break their silence about what is going on along the A14 corridor and elsewhere?


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting