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Update 31 January 2019
As if to counteract the shame, English Heritage has just tweeted:
“Our latest blog explores the developments in the care and conservation of Stonehenge in the 21st century – an immensely exciting period of archaeological discovery within the World Heritage Site.”

“Previous care” is zero justification for future theft. Ask the Public!

See the recent evidence of it. Now there’s more: publicity for the first time about the total paid out to detectorists. “Payday for metal detectorists … The life of a metal detectorist can very well pay off, it seems. The average treasure find reported to the authorities and valued last year made £2,671, it has emerged, a total value of £643,683 across 241 items.”

A big change of tone. Up to now the Treasure Registrar has spent years lauding the minority who refuse a reward. Now it’s less about “heroes”, more about “treasure hunters”. Also, the Treasure Registrar has just hosted the curator from the (much more financially modest) Danish “Danefae” system for …. “a great knowledge exchange“!

It looks very much as if, in anticipation of likely post-Brexit austerity, there’s a concerted effort to convince the public that rewards should be reduced. Which is mighty ironic since most detectorists seem to have voted for Brexit!




More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

It’s not exactly hard to see, given the large number of detectorists and the relatively small percentage of people listed by PAS as “finders”, that an awful lot of detectorists – the great majority – don’t report all or even any of their finds and as such are knoweledge thieves who harm the rest of us.

So the fact PAS never says so makes PAS complicit and means our elected representatives are kept unaware of the problem. But WHY does PAS say nothing? Well, the broad answer is that PAS sees its own welfare as lying in not offending detectorists. Not that it admits it. But four years ago this week, just for a moment, it said so to its staff:

pas PRE xMAS

Tragic, isn’t it? For a good legal reason they insist their staff don’t criticise single individuals by name. Yet they are all perfectly free to criticise the thousands of unnamed detectorists who act just as badly. Yet they never do.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

On this day 61 years ago, The Quarrymen performed at the Cavern Club, Liverpool. One of their members went on to write a song with relevance to the current plight of Stonehenge. So ….


Imagine ….
A private individual building a wall to hide a much loved national monument and then charging people to see it.


Or Imagine ….
Someone from English Heritage breaking into The Tate and stealing this painting by John Constable and then charging people to see it.


Unimaginable? Yet EH wants to block the free view from the very spot where both Constable and Turner stood and then to charge people to see it! And you can be sure it’s been a long-held ambition for here are the words of their Chairman in 1995, ruminating on the fact they may have been “losing” more than £500,000 a year [vastly more now!] simply from the free view available on the A303… “There is considerable interest among private lenders…. After all, there is already a revenue stream, and you don’t need much imagination to see how it might increase sharply.

And that’s how we’ve arrived at this unimagineable position.

“It’s our responsibility to make sometimes difficult decisions that will ensure it [Avebury] is here for another 5,000 years and beyond”…… while supporting a massive trench through the Stonehenge landscape that will ensure it stays scarred for far longer than 5,000 years!
Now The Trust has announced it will focus this year on the history of protest at its sites. Clang goes the meter again for entirely by it’s own action and inaction respectively, it has spawned two huge protest movements – against its continued support for a short tunnel and failure to end trail hunting on its land.
.That’s what happens if you forget your raison d’etre. (Forever? For Everyone?)


Dear Fellow Landowners,

Last week a chap asked if he and 500 chums could hold a detecting rally on my farm “for charity and Britain”. I support both so I said yes, if you’re insured. He laughed and said “Definitely. Through the National Council for Metal Detecting. For £10,000,000“. But last night, down at the Black Sheep and Wellies, my neighbour told me 3 things:

  1. he’d heard from a National Council for Metal Detecting official that the insurance cover is for each individual detectorist NOT the event, so if anything goes wrong and the organisers can’t identify the individual, they can’t claim.
  2. He’d also heard that cover usually doesn’t extend to non-UK residents
  3. Nor ever to detectorists who act unlawfully (which they might well if they cause you damage).

That worries me, especially as I know detectorists are fond of protection – for themselves: A forum moderator said they should all get a finds agreement because “Should there be unknown dangers on the land, such as concealed shafts, hazardous soil, badly driven tractors, savage dogs etc and you are unlucky to suffer injury, the contract can be a very useful document.”) So I think I need more clarification, maybe in the form of a Comment below from a rally organiser or The National Council or The Portable Antiquities Scheme, or all three, repeated in the farming press. It’s a bit important so you might feel the same dear friends.

Best wishes

Silas Brown,
Grunter’s Hollow,


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

For ages we’ve said Glasgow University should add a 5th type of “nighthawking” to their Encyclopaedia: “Having permission to detect but not revealing a find or misrepresenting its worth”. Now, the Sentencing Council’s new Guidelines on Theft Offences seem to suggests that’s true, for they identify:

3 relevant offences
1. “Going equipped for theft or burglary”
2. “Handling stolen property” and
3. “Making Off without Payment”
and 4 indicators of high culpability
1. “If the offender abuses a position of power or trust”
2. “Deliberately targets the victim on the basis of vulnerability”
3. “Attempts to conceal or dispose of items”and
4. “There is evidence of community/wider impact.”

Clearly, if you don’t show a find or misrepresent its value, all 3 offences and all 4 high culpability indicators are present! How is that not theft while detecting, i.e. the fifth (and vastly most common) instance of nighthawking?

By Alan S.

The final video for now from our tour of Cornish antiquities visits the Carn Euny courtyard house settlement.

Continually occupied for over 800 years, the final phase of the settlement consisted of three large courtyard houses, several smaller oval buildings and a fogou. The fogou was discovered in 1857, and excavated in the 1860s by William Copeland Borlase.

Further information:

Carn Euny – Cornwall Heritage Trust
Carn Euny – Historic Cornwall
Carn Euny – Wikipedia

We hope you’ve enjoyed these videos as much as we enjoyed making them. Previous articles in the series can be found here. If there are other Cornish ancient sites you’d like to see featured, please leave a comment.

By Alan S.

I first visited Mulfra Vean courtyard house settlement in Penwith back in 2013, when CASPN were running a clear-up at the site. At that time the site was very overgrown and difficult to understand.

Since then, CASPN have continued their regular clear-ups, and these have recently been augmented by an additional volunteer team from the Penwith Landscape Partnership (PLP) as part of their Ancient Penwith project, one of 13 projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with additional funding from Cornwall Council and other sources, running over a 5 year period.

My most recent visit to Mulfra Vean was prompted by my attendance in October last year at a one-day introductory course to archaeological surveying, held by PLP. The object of the day was to prepare volunteers to participate in producing surveys of sites in Penwith, starting with Mulfra Vean. Although ill-health at the time prevented me from committing to participate in the surveys themselves, I did volunteer to assist in the digitisation of any survey drawings. As I was aware that a significant effort had now been put into the survey, I visited the site to see what progress had been made.

I was met by Jeanette Ratcliffe, the current Ancient Penwith Project Officer, providing maternity cover for Laura Ratcliffe-Warren. Jeannette was kind enough to show me the current state of the survey plans drawn up by the volunteer team to date and gave me a short tour of the site.

The settlement is currently dissected by a footpath which ascends Mulfra Hill, and the current effort is focussed to the west of the path, where one courtyard house and the possible outline of another have been laid bare. This part of the settlement was excavated in 1954 by Rev. Crofts, who sadly passed away the following year without publishing his results. Luckily Charles Thomas obtained his notes, and the results were eventually published in the Cornwall Archaeology Society journal.

Survey by Mr. W. E. Griffiths, 1954 as published in Cornish Archaeology No. 2 1963.

The features to the east of the path have long been hidden beneath dense undergrowth, but the brushcutters have recently been put to good use here, and details of the site can now be seen. First is an enigmatic double bank earthwork, which may possibly be related to medieval mining activity. To the north is another courtyard house, and this will no doubt be investigated further once the western survey is completed.

The current plan is to commence digitisation of the survey drawings by the end of January, for inclusion in a planned web portal which will show the results of all 13 projects in due course. Keep an eye on the PLP website for updates on this and the other projects.

Yet another Minister, Michael Ellis, as inadequately briefed as his Culture Secretary predecessors, has just voiced another egregious and damaging falsehood about metal detecting. Referring to a DCMS study which showed that 1.5% of adults in England had taken part in metal detecting in the last year, he said:

“This increase in detecting has contributed hugely to the extension of our knowledge of our past.”

Think about it! Out of 675,000 adults who said they’d metal detected last year, only 241 of them (one in 2,800) had a find declared as Treasure and the other 99.96% drew a blank. You’d have to be pretty gullible to believe that, and that metal detecting doesn’t involve wholesale net loss of cultural knowledge, but Mr Ellis wants you to, for reasons entirely unfathomable except by those who briefed him.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


January 2019

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