PAS Volunteers In Their Own Words

We believe that volunteering for the Portable Antiquities Scheme is an interesting and rewarding experience. As well as the social aspect that comes with being part of a team, our volunteers also gain knowledge, experience and new skills. Many of our volunteers have gone onto careers in the heritage sector – in fact, several of our Find Liaison Officers are former volunteers!

The best way to learn about what it’s like to volunteer with us, is to hear from the volunteers themselves. So, we’ve collated links to all of the “Meet the Volunteer” blog posts below. If you’re inspired then check out the Get Involved section of our website for further information.

Meet the Volunteer: Meghan
Meet the Volunteers: Susheela
Meet the Volunteers: Sophie
Meet the Volunteers: Simon
Meet the Volunteers: Roger
Meet the Volunteer: Elliot
Meet the Volunteers: Gary
Meet the Volunteers: Taylor
Three amazing years volunteering with the PAS
Meet the Volunteers – Aimee Hinds
Meet the Volunteers – Bob Stewart
Volunteers’ Week – Meet our Team
Volunteers’ Week – Meet our Team
Celebrating Volunteers’ Week 2020 – Meet our team
National Volunteers Week 2018 – Meet the South and West Yorkshire Volunteer Team

Jack – Volunteers’ Week 2015

Jack, PAS volunteer
Jack, PAS volunteer. Copyright: Jack Coulthard.

To mark national Volunteers’ Week 2015, PAS volunteers were invited to contribute a blog post to the new County Pages about their experiences of volunteering for the Scheme.

This post was written by Jack Coulthard, a metal detectorist in Leeds who volunteers in the Wakefield office of Amy Downes, the Finds Liaison Officer for South and West Yorkshire.


I first encountered the PAS when, as a metal detectorist, I attended one of the finds recording days run by the South and West Yorkshire FLO, Amy Downes, to record a medieval seal matrix. When I went to collect it after it had been recorded Amy asked me if I would consider working as a PAS volunteer. Although I spent my working life in the computer business I have a history degree and have never lost an interest in the subject, so I was intrigued at the thought of seeing all the little pieces of history represented by the small finds brought in to the PAS.

A post medieval musket ball recorded by Jack (SWYOR-D276D9)
SWYOR-D276D9: A post-medieval musket ball recorded by Jack. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. Licence: CC-BY.

That was seven years ago and I’m still turning out one, and occasionally two, days a week to work in our Wakefield office. The volume of finds brought in to be recorded has not diminished in that time; as more people become aware of the PAS the number of items that we record has increased. That makes the role of volunteers more and more important as FLOs have a considerable workload in addition to simply recording finds (assisting finders in dealing with treasure finds, for example) much of which is not seen by the public. Anything that volunteers can do to spread that load a little helps the system to keep functioning smoothly.

I usually help with the identification and recording of finds, especially where the work is repetitive and time consuming, so that Amy has more time to work on other aspects of the job. An example is a recent batch of 168 post-medieval musket balls which, although quite mundane items, came from a Civil War battlefield and so are historically important. I know that we are due to receive another batch, so I’ll be dealing with those too – I’m getting to be quite expert at musket balls! I also try to help with as many of the administrative tasks as I can, such as data cleansing which needs to be done from time to time and can be done from home.


Tom – Volunteers’ Week 2015

Tom, PAS self-recorder
Tom, PAS self-recorder. Copyright: Tom Redmayne.

To mark national Volunteers’ Week 2015, PAS volunteers were invited to contribute a blog post to the new County Pages about their experiences of volunteering for the Scheme.

This post was written by Tom Redmayne, an independent metal detectorist and self-recorder from Lincolnshire who records his own finds onto the PAS database with the assistance of Adam Daubney, the Finds Liaison Officer for Lincolnshire.

PUBLIC-CE3A43: A Roman coin and the first find recorded by Tom on the PAS database. Copyright: All rights reserved. Licence: CC-BY.

I started metal-detecting in 2005 when I moved to Lincolnshire and, after making my first few exciting finds, started to look for somewhere to have them recorded as I knew that these objects must have a story to tell and a value to the historical record. After talking to many other metal-detectorists and reading the hobby magazines I was finally pointed in the direction of Adam Daubney and the PAS. A phone call later and I was on my way to Lincoln with a very mixed box of finds and some very vague coordinates of their find spots. So began an incredibly educational and fascinating journey into small finds identification, recording and research.

Soon Adam introduced me to my first handheld GPS and my finds suddenly took on new meaning with their find spots being recorded to 10 place NGR accuracy. Patterns started to become evident in where many objects were found and the whole ethos of recording to the most accurate find spot and with the most accurate description was something that I became dedicated to following.

PUBLIC-C43EF3: A Medieval buckle and the most recent find recorded by Tom on the PAS database
PUBLIC-C43EF3: A Medieval buckle and the most recent find recorded by Tom on the PAS database. Copyright: All rights reserved. Licence: CC-BY.

Over time the number and variety of my finds led me more and more into research, with small-finds and coin identification becoming a particular interest of mine. By 2010 I was identifying most of my own finds and offering a detailed description with full coordinates to Adam when I handed them to him for recording. The obvious next step was to learn how to record my own finds directly onto the database so, in November 2010 I was set up as a self-recorder by Dan Pett and I wrote my first record!

All along the way, Adam had coached me, instilling into me the discipline and standards required to ensure that the maximum amount of information was extracted from the objects that I was finding, and he continued to do so, checking my records, offering suggestions and advice and, generally, keeping me on the right tracks.

It is over four years since that first entry and I have now written and uploaded over 730 records to the database.

Not only have I enjoyed recording my own finds, but also using the database to expand my own knowledge and to help others do the same by sharing information.

I have, over the last two years, used the database myself to study and classify a type of medieval buckle called a ‘disc-on-pin’ type. My research and classification is soon to be published as a Finds Research Group Datasheet. This would not have been possible without the PAS database and the time and effort given to me by its staff over the past ten years.

The whole database is a continually-growing and invaluable resource and tool for people from many disciplines and walks of life, not just from the heritage sector, and long may it continue.


William – Volunteers’ Week 2015

William, PAS self-recorder
William, PAS self-recorder. Copyright: William Aldington.

To mark national Volunteers’ Week 2015, PAS volunteers were invited to contribute a blog post to the new County Pages about their experiences of volunteering for the Scheme.

This post was written by William Aldington, an independent detectorist and self-recorder from Cheshire who records his own finds onto the PAS database with the assistance of Vanessa Oakden, the Finds Liaison Officer for Cheshire, Greater Manchester & Merseyside.


You can’t teach an old dog new tricks… There must be some truth in this old and well used adage because it is one of the oldest proverbial sayings in the English language and there are many citations of it; the earliest example in print is in John Fitzherbert’s ‘The Boke of Husbandry, 1534’, when even then it was regarded an old saying.

There’s no doubt either, that now in my seventieth year and a retired granddad, I’m nowhere near as sharp as I once was. Though I do try hard to keep up with the very latest in technology; software ‘apps’, ‘Twitter’, ‘Instagram’, ‘Face-Tube’, and the rest of cutting-edge gadgetry.

So I do sometimes wonder what possessed our FLO, Vanessa Oakden, to take on the unenviable challenge of educating me, ‘an old dog’, in the many new facets of self-recording – with a view to becoming a PAS Volunteer. Well, she bravely did and following our initial training session at her new HQ within the Pilotage Building, in the historical setting of Pier Head and Albert Docks in Liverpool; I have gradually come to terms with the nuances of Photoshop, the specifics of academic terminology and discipline of absolute evidential accuracy.

LVPL-1EC484: A post-Medieval silver composite button found by William
LVPL-1EC484: A post-medieval silver composite button found by William. Copyright: National Museums Liverpool. Licence: CC-BY.

I came late to the addictive hobby of metal detecting and first met with Vanessa at one of her monthly surgeries at the Chester Grosvenor Museum, when I disclosed to her an item under terms of the Treasure Act, 1996. On this occasion is was a simple but exquisite post-medieval silver button, subsequently declared by HM Coroner’s Inquest as ‘treasure’ and now donated to the Chester museum. As a result we are the proud possessors of a certificate signed by Ed Vaizey, the then Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy.

My detecting buddy and I have worked hard to develop a fine portfolio of landowner partners and in a relatively short period of time we have unearthed some interesting stuff. Dubbed “Finders-Sharers” we are, as our business cards proudly state,“a trusted team dedicated to the search, discovery and preservation of buried local history in partnership with caring, sharing landowners”.

Finding and preserving bits of local history always provides the metal-detectorist with a tremendous buzz of excitement and now, armed with PAS self-recording skills and authorization; the sense of achievement in making a positive contribution to documenting the Nation’s Heritage is pretty-much complete. Thanks Vanessa for your confidence and trust in an old dog; but particularly for your limitless patience and continued support!

So, is John Fitzherbert’s ‘Boke’ of 1534 correct?…

“ …and he [a shepherd] must teche his dogge to barke whan he wolde haue hym, and to leue ronning whan he wolde haue hym; or els he is not a cunning shepherd. The dogge must lerne it, whan he is a whelpe, or els it will not be: for it is harde to make an olde dogge to stoupe”.

[stoupe = put his nose to the ground to find a scent]

… Nope. You most definitely can teach the old bloke new tricks but it does take a fair-bit longer and the challenge is not for the faint-hearted.

Paradoxically, in this fast-moving world, it’s us old dogs that have the time to ponder, learn and contribute…

National Volunteers’ Week 2015

In preparation for the launch of the County Pages, we invited our volunteers to contribute a series of blog posts about the fantastic work they do for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) to mark Volunteers’ Week (1st – 7th June 2015), a national celebration of the volunteer sector run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). We asked our volunteers to tell us what they do in their voluntary capacity for the PAS, why they got involved and why they feel it is important. Their blog posts will be added to the main news feed on the County Pages throughout June and July.

Volunteers' week logo
Volunteers’ Week logo. Copyright: NCVO.

We want to share their inspirational experiences and unique insight on the work of the PAS. It’s also important to us to publicly acknowledge the vital contribution that volunteers play in recording archaeological objects and coins, generating new data for the PAS database and so building up knowledge about the distribution of archaeological finds in local areas.

The first volunteer to be profiled will be Cheshire-based William Aldington, an independent detectorist and self-recorder who records his own finds onto the PAS database. Look out for his blog post on the County Pages tomorrow.