Strangely, there’s no official guidance for landowners on how to react to requests to metal detect. Shouldn’t there be, for aren’t they the ultimate gatekeepers of our heritage whose decisions, if wrong, can cost them and the rest of us dear?

That being so, is it wise for a landowner to trust someone’s assurance of good behaviour? Durham Council has just refused permission using words which say it all: “Not all objects found may be declared which would legally be the property of the Council”. Who can deny that?.

Yet here’s one of thousands of events at which, no doubt, the landowner was absolutely assured no finds would go unshown or unreported. Was he right to believe it? Or was he wrong, and both he and the rest of us lost out as a result? We have no proof as any proof would be hidden. But would it have been better all round if he’d taken Durham Council’s precautionary view?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting