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Despite the pandemic and the parlous state of national finances, expensive reforms to the Treasure Act are imminent and the public is being misinformed about them.

Here are four true headlines and one truth:





(First published in the Journal 10 years ago)


“I stood with my feet upon the Stone Age and saw myself four thousand years away and all my distresses as very little incidents in that perspective.”

From The Secret Places of the Heart by HG Wells, 1923.

At Stonehenge, yes. There the Trust seems mad keen to earn the opprobrium of posterity. But on Trail Hunting, no-one yet knows. Following the recent revelations, it has suspended trail hunting at last but only provisionally. It has long been said the Trust has been infiltrated by the hunting lobby and ITV News has just made further allegations.

Two opportunities for change (the 2020 AGM and the election of new Board Members) were lost due to Covid and although a 2021 AGM is planned it looks probable that, just like happened in 2017, the Chairman, will cast the thousands of proxy votes entrusted to him in favour of continued trail hunting. Watch this space.


“Doesn’t happen”?

18/01/2021 in Metal detecting (Edit)

People in Devon and Cornwall are being told the Stonehenge tunnel will boost the South West economy. It’s a lie, the 40th Yowling Moggy (the sound made when the truth is being tortured. Here are the other 39.)

It’s easily demonstrated. According to the Highways England Technical Appraisal Report, when travelling past Stonehenge “On an average month, it is estimated that users experience average delays of nearly 9 minutes”. So that means the average time to drive from Highways England’s Head Office in Guildford to St Ives, currently 4 hours 36 minutes, will be reduced to 4 hours 27 minutes. That’s the same as shrinking the distance by 2.9%.


So, if ANYONE (EH, HE, NT, Wilts Council, and many other bodies in the South West) tells you that will boost the South West economy tell them they are repeating a lie and that to wreck a World Heritage Landscape in defiance of UNESCO on the basis of a lie is unconscionable.

In 2005 we  published the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter (HAAEC), providing a real-time running total of the likely number of artefacts found by detectorists. Evidence from various surveys (including detectorists; ones) show that on average each active detectorist finds at least 30.5 recordable artefacts per year and we assumed at the time there were 8,000 active detectorists, hence the rate of “tick”.

The resultant total now stands at close to 6.3 million recordable artefacts dug up since PAS was formed (compared with 1.5 million recordable artefacts recorded in the PAS database.) However, there are now perhaps 27,000 active detectorists and accordingly in 2018 Paul Barford published a revised counter reflecting this growth.

The implications are very sobering and Paul has now prepared the graphic below showing how things will be in ten years assuming the same number of detectorists each finding the same number of artefacts per year.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

By Nigel Swift

I see that Mike Lewis, Head of PAS and Mike Heyworth, ex Director of CBA have been raising awareness in the Times over the fact very few finds from commercial detecting rallies get reported. They have a huge point. Making loads of money out of Society’s back yard while giving almost nothing back to Society is surely not right? But there’s more than that for them to be scandalised over:

Here’s a rare Roman horse brooch from Leasingham found by a detectorist. He “allowed it to be put on display” in a museum. You (and Messrs Lewis and Heyworth) might well wonder what sort of self-entitled creepiness leads someone to “allow it to be put on display” rather than simply handing it over. That’s because if you (or they) had found it you’d have probably handed it over in a heartbeat. As that would be moral.

Yet sadly, the 0.04% of the British population, who find the bulk of Treasure items, mostly want paying. A lot. Or else. Even in a pandemic, and with the heritage sector skint. Britain really shouldn’t be being blackmailed. Indeed, the blackmail is about to be extended, presumably with the blessing of Messrs Lewis and Heyworth, with even more items never owned by detectorists being made subject to Treasure Act rewards for handing them over. It is being branded as “More items to be saved for the nation” but in fact, it’s “more items are to qualify for being ransomed”.

Why are moral pygmies being further enriched for doing something the great majority of the population would be glad to do without payment? Wouldn’t bigger penalties be cheaper than extending the rewards? If “paying for reporting” is a sensible policy why not pay commercial rally organisers to ensure finds are reported? Reductio ad absurdum, eh? Such a shame Socrates isn’t in charge!


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



Rachel Maclean. Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Dept for Transport):
“The A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down scheme is currently subject to a legal challenge but if the project was to proceed, as approved by the Secretary of State for Transport on 12 November 2020, then there will not be a toll for accessing the proposed tunnel. Provision for a toll was not included in the approved Development Consent Order.”


Not quite the case though is it Rachel? Anyone driving along the A303 hoping to see Stonehenge (and there are tens of thousands daily) won’t be able to unless they leave the road and pay £21.10 per person to English Heritage. Next time, please mention that!


UNESCO is opposed to the short tunnel, so why are neither the Government nor its yes-bodies publicly confronting that fact? Is it that they realise that if Britain is widely known to be defying UNESCO at such a place in such a way there would be massive world anger – so it’s best to downplay it for now?

Not that fear of international censure or even ridicule constrains the Government. A country that threatened to break international law AND deploy gunships against the fishermen of its democratic neighbours is unlikely to heed what UNESCO says.

One wonders if the managements of English Heritage et al realised they would be hitching their wagon to those who dream of lost imperialistic glory and gunboat diplomacy? People who would be delighted with a two-fingered salute to the snowflakes running UNESCO. We suspect there’s quite a lot of buttock-clenching going on in all the conservation bodies.

But unlike Brexiters, they still have a chance to change their minds, and say no, this imperialistic arrogance is crazy. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if they did!


   HMS English Heritage: defending OUR monument from foreign interference?


Spaceship Dawn is in the news just now. After a journey of 3 billion miles, it is now in permanent orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres and has just reported back the discovery of an enormous lake of saltwater.

Back in 2007 we successfully applied to NASA to have Dawn carry the simple message below into space where it will stay forever.



So it is to be hoped that those attempting to subvert the intentions of the World Heritage Convention and falsely spin a road project as a heritage enhancement exercise will sometimes glance upwards and reflect that what they are supporting is profoundly wrong. We suspect they all will.

A new definitive official stance is born (see yesterday):
“Most detectorists at commercial metal detecting rallies don’t report finds”. Allelujah! But now for some questions:

1. Since that has been blindingly clear in PAS’s own statistics for 20 years, why has it taken till now to admit it to the readers of British Archaeology and The Times?

2. How many millions of bundles of knowledge have been stolen in that time? (It IS possible to calculate: compare finds per detectorist from commercial rallies with finds per detectorist fom non-commercial or archaeologist-run events).

3. Will this public admission be taken on board by pro-detecting archaeologists and academics, (bearing in mind commercial rallies are now a massive proportion of all detecting)?

4. Why are we merely saying “We should send a clear signal to detectorists that rallies should be avoided” when it should be being sent to the Government, the taxpayer, the concerned stakeholders and most of all, FARMERS?

5. Is anyone going to apologise to the public for the delay and consequent losses? To taxpayers? To the stakeholders? To us? To UNESCO? To posterity?



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


January 2021

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