Treasure Annual Report 2000

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This is the third annual report to Parliament on the operation of the Treasure Act 1996 and contains details of 265 new cases which were discovered or reported during the year 2000, together with details of a further 24 cases that were listed in summary in last year’s report. This report, like its two predecessors, lists all finds that were reported as potential treasure to the British Museum, the National Museums & Galleries of Wales and the Environment and Heritage Agency, Northern Ireland. Fifteen of the cases in this report were found not to qualify as treasure; the report does not include any finds that may have been reported as potential treasure to local finds advisers that were found clearly not to qualify and therefore were not referred to the national bodies.

Treasure Review

The number of reported treasure finds made during 2000 was 221, almost exactly the same as the final figure for 1999 (223), itself an increase from the 191 cases in 1998. As my predecessor noted in last year’s report, the Act has certainly succeeded in its primary aim of ensuring that more finds of important archaeological objects are offered to museums for public benefit. In addition, there has been a substantial gain in our knowledge of artefact types and their distributions since the introduction of the Act – knowledge that would otherwise be lost. This is borne out in the scholarly detail in many of the individual reports published here.

However, the substantial increase in the caseload borne by the many different parties concerned with the operation of the Act has, from time to time, placed strains upon the system, leading to delays. For this reason, an independent consultant, Elaine Paintin, was commissioned in September 2000 to carry out a review of the Act, as required by the Code of Practice. The Review concentrated on two principal issues: the definition of treasure and the system of administration. A consultation paper was published in December 2000 and the Report on the Operation of the Treasure Act: Review and Recommendations, was published in October 2001. Both documents were widely circulated to interested parties.

The Report contained 52 individual recommendations in all and is available on the Department’s website (www.culture.gov.uk/heritage/index.html). We have welcomed the Report and are committed to implementing its two most important recommendations: to extend the definition of treasure to include deposits of prehistoric base-metal objects, and to revise the Code of Practice on the Act (DCMS News Release 288/01, 8 November 2001). This commitment was repeated in the Government’s policy statement The Historic Environment: A Force for Our Future (DCMS and DTLR, December 2001).

The draft Order altering the definition of treasure and the revised Code of Practice will be laid before Parliament for approval this summer. Provided Parliament approves both measures, the revised Code of Practice will then need to be published and widely circulated and there will be an interval of six months between Parliamentary approval of the two measures and their coming into force.
Although these measures will result in a higher number of objects being reported as treasure, we have been encouraged to proceed because of a number of positive developments that have recently taken place.

Portable Antiquities Scheme

Most importantly, the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed to fund in full a bid from Resource: the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, for an expansion of the Portable Antiquities Scheme for three years from April 2003. The aim of the Portable Antiquities Scheme is to record all archaeological objects found by members of the public on a voluntary basis for public benefit. Resource’s lottery bid, which has the support of 63 partners, both national and regional, will mean that it will be possible to extend the Scheme across the whole of England and Wales. Since 1997 my Department, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been funding a number of pilot schemes under the Portable Antiquities Scheme and these have been taken forward by finds liaison officer posts based in regional museums and archaeological services.

Although the finds liaison officers have a much wider role than just dealing with treasure finds (over 95 per cent of the objects they record are not treasure), in practice it has been found that providing advice to finders on treasure has proved to be an extremely important part of their remit. One issue that came across very strongly in Elaine Paintin’s consultation while carrying out the review of the Act was the often crucial role played by the finds liaison officers in ensuring that the treasure process runs smoothly and that the different parties involved are kept informed about the progress of their cases. Thanks to the proactive approach of the liaison officers it is already obvious that a significant number of finds have been reported as treasure that would otherwise not have been. However, hitherto less than half of England has enjoyed the services of a liaison officer and in those areas not covered by the Scheme we have relied on the services of those museums and archaeological services that have agreed to act as local treasure advisers. From late 2003, there will now be a national network of 36 finds liaison officers across all of England and Wales, together with four supporting finds specialist posts and a central support team of five (45 posts in all), and this means that we can be confident that there will be the staff to ensure that finds are dealt with as they should be.

Improved administrative arrangements at The British Museum and the DCMS

Additional resources have also been made available for the administration of treasure cases within my Department. Responsibility has been transferred from the Architecture and Historic Environment Division to the Cultural Property Unit and, in addition to the existing post which was already devoted full-time to treasure, two new posts have been created, part of whose remit is also treasure-related. In addition I greatly welcome the British Museum’s decision to create a new post for a Treasure Registrar from October 2001. The Treasure Registrar is responsible for the co-ordination of all treasure cases from England up to inquest: after that responsibility passes to the treasure team in my Department.

The establishment of this post was another of the key recommendations of the Treasure Review. The early indications are that the Treasure Registrar, Lisa Voden-Decker, is already having a substantial impact on the administration of treasure cases up to inquest. Although it is not necessary to have separate Registrar posts in Wales and Northern Ireland, where the volume of finds is so much lower, I would also like to acknowledge the role of the National Museums & Galleries of Wales and the Environment and Heritage Agency and National Museums & Galleries of Northern Ireland in dealing with treasure cases from their countries.

Coroners

My Department is also anxious to work with the other bodies which have responsibilities for treasure, particularly the coroners’ service which has a central role. We much appreciate the role of the Coroners’ Society of England and Wales, and especially their Vice-President Victor Round, H M Coroner for Worcestershire, for his role in assisting and advising his fellow coroners about treasure. My Department, with the British Museum, will be holding a seminar for coroners this autumn on the new developments in treasure. At the same time we have been co-operating with the Fundamental Review of Coroners, being carried out for the Home Office by a small team under the Chairmanship of Tom Luce.
As in previous years, I would like to acknowledge the role of finders in reporting their finds promptly, as required by the Treasure Act. The great majority of the treasure finds reported here have been found by metal-detector users and without their active co-operation the Act would be ineffective. My Department has had fruitful discussions with the National Council for Metal Detecting over the Review of the Treasure Act and I would like to acknowledge their positive contribution to the process.

I am particularly grateful to the Treasure Valuation Committee and their panel of expert advisers for their work. The Committee, which provides Ministers with independent advice on the valuation of treasure finds that museums wish to acquire, is now dealing with over a hundred cases a year. During the past year the Committee has also been asked to advise on a number of finds where there has been a dispute over the allocation of the reward (see below, nos. 5 and 281): I am especially grateful to the Committee and its Chairman, Professor Norman Palmer, for the very careful consideration they have given to these cases. I would also like to thank the other members of the Committee: Mr Thomas Curtis, Mr Dennis Jordan, Dr Arthur MacGregor, Dr Jack Ogden and Ms May Sinclair for their contribution and I would like to pay tribute to the members of the panel of expert advisers from whom the Committee commissions valuations: Mr Michael Sharp of A H Baldwin and Sons Ltd, Mr James Ede of Charles Ede Ltd, Mr Tom Eden of Morton and Eden, Ms Elizabeth Mitchell of Sotheby’s, Ms Joanna van der Lande of Bonham’s, Ms Susan Hadida of Faustus Ancient Art and Ms Mary Fielden. I believe that the fairness of the valuations recommended by the Committee is now widely recognised and this is due in large part to the care and diligence with which the Committee discharges its duties. 

One of the Committee’s valuations, for the two hoards of Roman coins from Langtoft(nos. 255 and 256), was recently tested at auction. It had originally been expected that the hoards would be acquired intact by either the Hull & East Riding Museum or the East Riding Museum Service and they were valued by the Committee at £17,650. The local museums subsequently withdrew from the acquisition and the British Museum acquired a selection of 20 coins, which were valued by the Committee at £873. The remainder of the hoard, except for 34 coins which the finders retained, was then sold at auction by Dix, Noonan & Webb for a total hammer price of £14,350. The Committee’s valuation therefore corresponds very closely to the price that the coins subsequently achieved at auction when allowance is made for the coins acquired by the British Museum and those retained by the finders.

During the current year a higher number of finds have been disclaimed (132), or found not to be treasure (15) than were declared to be treasure and have been, or are being acquired, by museums (136). Ninety-four per cent of cases have been discovered by metal detector users, one per cent by chance finders and four per cent during the course of archaeological investigations. The geographical distribution of the finds is also highly significant. Although cases have been reported from almost every part of England and Wales (there are none during this period from Northern Ireland and the Act does not have force in Scotland), as in previous years, some areas, such as Norfolk and Suffolk, are notably richer in finds than others.

I would also like to acknowledge the essential role played by funding bodies in supporting the acquisition of treasure finds by museums, particularly the V&A/Resource Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as other, local, sources of funding. For the first time the present report acknowledges their contributions in the catalogue entries, where that information was available.

Lastly, I would like to record my thanks to the thirty-four contributors for their entries on treasure cases. It has been our aim to ensure that these Annual Reports on Treasure, besides fulfilling the statutory obligation to report to Parliament each year on the operation of the Act, also serve as a useful first publication of the finds presented herein. That this is so is thanks to the scholarship of the experts listed overleaf.

Tessa Jowell,  Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport May 2002

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