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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?

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

Few can be unaware of the massive world wide efforts The Stonehenge Alliance has made for so long to prevent further damage to Stonehenge. Not because they are paid. Not because they have a vested interest. Purely because they believe it is right that this generation shouldn’t bequeath a damaged Stonehenge landscape to future generations, long after they and all of us have passed away.

There are few more worthy – or taxing – struggles and there is no more vivid illustration of their dedication than appeared this morning: the deadline for registering to object was midnight last night and they could be forgiven for taking a well earned rest. Yet here they are at 9.00am this morning tweeting that they’re at the  Planning Inspectorate’s office waiting for it to open!


We’re now in the Planning Inspectorate’s waiting room. In roughly a fortnight we will know how many representations were compliant. But the signs so far is that our World Wide Team #SaveStonehenge has done rather well. THANK YOU everyone who has objected and supported us thus far.…/a303-…/



The family of a detectorist who has passed away has appealed on a forum for other detectorists to come and identify his 400 finds, much like those shown below. Which is strange, because surely detecting finds can all be instantly looked up on the Portable Antiquities database where they’ve been fully documented by experts. That’s the whole point of Britain’s system isn’t it?

Or is it? No-one will ever know if his collection or the many collections like the ones above were reported and documented along with their find spots. But one can guess. The fact the images were hastily removed when highlighted suggests the forum moderator knows the answer. Of course, PAS will tell you most finds are reported to them so images like this and hundreds of thousands of others are not to be fretted about..

Unless you ask them in private!


[Thanks for this to Paul Barford.]



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

24 years ago, on 8th July 1994, English Heritage and the National Trust mounted “The Great Debate”, an international conference on Stonehenge. Sir Angus Stirling, Director General of the National Trust, spoke for both organisations, saying:

“We have concluded that the only feasible on-line route [for the A303] which meets the essential requirements of this World Heritage Site, is a long bored tunnel starting East of New King Barrows and finishing to the West well past the monument, that is the restoration to its grand and natural setting that is the National Trust’s and English Heritage’s duty. There is no historic site in England where we shall uphold that duty with greater resolve and determination.”

You have until the end of today if you wish to tell the Inspector you still support those words: the only feasible on-line route [for the A303] which meets the essential requirements of this World Heritage Site, is a long bored tunnel” – and neither time nor circumstances could ever make it otherwise.

“Alternatively, if you trust Chris Grayling to drive a great gash of concrete & tarmac through our most precious prehistoric landscape in a sensitive & considered manner, and leave behind an enduring monument to our age that will do us credit, then don’t bother.”  -Tom Holland.



World Heritage Committee, 2018:


Why should Chris Grayling, English Heritage, Historic England, The Highways Agency and the hapless National Trust get away with saying otherwise? .

You have until the end of tomorrow to show the Inspector and The World that Britain doesn’t want to flout UNESCO’s expert views on how heritage should be protected!


The timeless view they want to remove from all but a few. Stonehenge c.1832 / 1843,  Mezzotint by David Lucas after John Constable.

Soon, after many centuries, to see Turner’s timeless view you would need to break your journey, pay to park and walk a long way to Turner’s position – assuming you have time, money and are not unwaged, unaware, disabled or a child.

So the view will effectively be lost to 99% of travellers despite it having the ability to exert a profound civilising influence, acting as an arresting window into our prehistory and engendering respect, care, study and perhaps lifelong interest in our ancient heritage, particularly in young people. (See the compelling Reclaiming Prehistory by our member Tombo which we published in 2004).

Please tell The Inspector (by the end of Friday) why this direct attack on our ancient past must not happen.


Stonehenge from Amesbury Road” – from JMW Turner’s sketchbook, 1811

If you intend to formally object to the short tunnel please hurry, time is now very short. Please stress that you are opposed to the loss of a precious cultural asset, the classic view of the stones, at the hands of the very bodies entrusted with its protection.

The distant prospect of the stones from the very spot Turner stood has thrilled countless millions of people, British and overseas, children and adults, for millennia. Its loss, using the patently forced and un-needed excuse that it would unify the landscape, is a bitter reminder of the mis-quoted quotation: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

If the worst did happen Turner’s 200 year old sketch would stay safe but would surely take on a new significance as a timeless, silent rebuke to our generation.

Everyone knows the hillfort’s setting is in peril but few know of Whittington, 3 miles away. For 2 years “Metal Detecting Holidays” has run 16 tours based there, mainly for Americans (paying £1,499 each). They say they “register older finds with PAS” but PAS’s map, below, shows only 7 finds at Whittington and very few in the surrounding area (and none of the finds showcased in the press by the company).


But shouldn’t about 300 Americans searching 12 days each have found about 2,500 recordable finds? Any suggestions dear Reader?



Meanwhile, back at the surroundings of poor, unlucky Oswestry’s hillfort detecting is banned! Here’s the CBA’s Director surveying the no entry signs…..

If detecting was banned to ensure no important archaeology comes to light those involved needn’t have bothered. Mostly such evidence isn’t reported! Sad, isn’t it, that our country self-harms so comprehensively yet finances a quango that denies it! Maybe post-Brexit there’ll be no money not just for things like the NHS but also for follies.



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


January 2019
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