Historic agreement on a first code of practice for metal detecting

Published: 15 years ago Author:

We are delighted to announce that a Code of Practice on Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales has been agreed by all key archaeological bodies and metal detecting and landowners’ organisations. This is the first time that these bodies have joined together to precisely define responsible metal detecting and provides a clear and unambiguous definition of what constitutes good practice.

The signatories are the National Council of Metal Detecting, the Federation of Independent Detectorists, the Country Land and Business Association, the National Farmers Union, the Council for British Archaeology, English Heritage, National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, The British Museum, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the Society of Museum Archaeologists and the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. The agreement is voluntary but has the full endorsement of the signatories and all parties are committed to ensuring its members abide by the advice set out in the document.

The agreement covers three aspects of metal detecting. The first section,'Before you go metal–detecting’, states you must obtain permission to search from the landowner, adhere to laws concerning protected sites, join an official metal-detecting club and follow conservation advice.'Whilst you are detecting’ states that findspots should be recorded as accurately as possible, that ground disturbance should be minimal and that the Country Code should be respected. Finally it offers advice on procedures after you have been detecting. Any and all finds should be reported to the landowner and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, detectorists must abide by the provisions of the Treasure Act and must seek expert help if they find something large or an object made from unusual material and that they must call the police if they discover any human remains.

It is hoped that the Code, alongside the Treasure Act legislation will ensure that situations like that at Wanborough where the site of a Romano-Celtic temple was decimated by unscrupulous treasure hunters will not happen again. There have been many cases, particularly recently, of responsible reporting of finds which have been of invaluable use to the archaeological record, the Ringlemere Gold Cup, the Winchester Hoard and the Staffordshire Moorlands Pan are but a few examples. The continuation of good relations between archaeologists, museums and metal detectorists as embodied by the Code will build on these examples and form the model for the future.

Dr Mike Heyworth, Director - Council for British Archaeology commented:

“This Code represents a major step forward. It builds on earlier efforts to provide guidance to all users of metal detectors. It emphasises the positive contributions that responsible metal detectorists can make to the study of the past through the knowledge we can obtain from finds and their archaeological contexts. The Code also serves to emphasise the distinction between responsible metal detectorists and the minority of irresponsible individuals who use their equipment for personal gain”.

Steve Critchley, Chairman – National Council for Metal-Detecting said:

 “This Code is both fair and practical. By adhering to this Code the vast majority of metal-detectorists will be able to demonstrate that they have a genuine interest in the past and wish to benefit from the knowledge they gain from their hobby. The National Council for Metal Detecting will be replacing its existing Code, a part of its Constitution, with the new one. Adherence to the Code when metal detecting is a condition of membership”.

For further information please contact Hannah Boulton in the Press Office on 020 7323 8522 or hboulton@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

  • The Code of Practice on Responsible Metal Detecting has been endorsed by the British Museum, the Council for British Archaeology, the Country Landowners and Business Association, English Heritage, the Federation of Independent Detectorists, the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council, the National Council for Metal Detecting, the National Farmers Union, the National Museum Wales, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales and the Society of Museum Archaeologists.
  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past. The Scheme is run and administered from the British Museum. More information can be found on www.finds.org.uk
  • Some of the greatest British archaeological finds are on display in Room 2 at the British Museum.

Contact: Michael Lewis 0207 323 8611

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